Gender budgeting

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    18th Mar, 2020

Context

In this year’s Union Budget, Finance Minister announced that she will constitute a committee to evaluate 15 years of gender budgeting.

Background:

  • Gender Budgeting in India: India adopted gender budgeting in 2004-05 based on the recommendations of an expert group committee constituted by the Ministry of Finance on “Classification of Budgetary Transactions”.
    • A statement on gender budgeting was incorporated in the Expenditure Budget (2005-06), Volume 1.
  • Objective: Gender budgeting, a fiscal innovation, was envisioned and incorporated into the financing mechanism to tackle gender inequalities in India.
    • Women constitute 48% of India’s population but suffer huge disadvantages all walks of life, marked with inadequate and inequitable human capital investments., lagging in indicators of health, education, economic opportunities, etc.
    • In 2019, India slipped to 112th spot from its 108th position in 2018 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020, which covered 153 economies
    • According to the report, it will take nearly 100 years to close the gender gap across politics, economic, health and education. 
  • Definition: As defined by the Government of India (2007), a gender-responsive budget acknowledges the gender patterns in society and allocates money to make policies and programmes gender-equitable. More specifically, it refers to a systematic gender-differentiated impact of fiscal provisions, programmes and policies. 
    •  It can be understood as a “gender lens” in the process of budgeting for planning, formulation and implementation stages. 
    • The concept does not entail mere increased outlays for the women-centric programmes; rather, it demands financially effective decisions of the public sector based on the principles of gender equality that are mostly obscured in conventional fiscal and public policies. 
  • Implementing agency: Though MWCD is the nodal agency to implement GRB in India, it is the Ministry of Finance in coordination with the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP) that carries out the pioneering study on GRB to design the matrices of gender budgeting. 

Importance of Gender Budgeting

  • Eliminating gender inequalities: Gender-responsive budgeting (GRB) or gender budgeting has both intrinsic and instrumental relevance.
    • GRB is critical for eliminating gender inequalities with significant improvements in social, educational, health and economic indicators of a country.  
  • Economic rationale: Persistent gender inequality that hinders the overall growth and development of a nation. The economic rationale for promoting a gender-sensitive budget also emanates from efficiency and equity perspectives.
    • It addresses budgetary gender inequality issues, such as how gender hierarchies influence budgets, and gender-based unpaid or low paid work.
  • Helps achieve social goals: Gender inequality is correlated with a loss in human development due to inequality.
    • Gender inequality translates into other areas of human development, threatening progress across the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
  • Public expenditures with gender implications: While some public expenditure is by nature ‘non-excludable’ and ‘non-rival’, such as defence, road/bridge-building, etc. Some public expenditures like on education, health, sanitation may have intrinsic gender implications and require separate assessment/monitoring/evaluation of gender-specific needs. 
    • Rationale for gender budgeting arises from the recognition of the fact that national budgets impact men and women differently through the pattern of resource allocation. 

Gender Budgeting around the world

  • Introduction to Gender Budgeting: The concept of gender budgeting is a nineties’ trend that was introduced mostly in Commonwealth countries.
    • Australia was the first country to implement a women’s budget in 1984. 
    • Since 1995 there have been gender budget initiatives in more than 80 countries around the world.
    • Many of the early gender budget initiatives focused primarily on the expenditure side rather than the revenue side of government budgets. 
  • South Africa: South Africa’s Women’s Budget Initiative was initiated in 1995 and involved NGOs, parliamentarians, and a wide range of researchers and advisors.
  • African nations: Gender budget initiatives in Tanzania(1997) and Uganda(1999) examine the impacts of structural adjustment programs in these countries and specifically focus on education and health.
  • Success recorded around the world: In Australia, there was a five-fold increase in child care places for working women, and in spending on women-specific areas. 
    • In the Philippines, there was made a specific requirement that every government agency allocate at least five per cent of its budget to gender and development initiatives.
    • In 2003 in the United Kingdom, recognising the efficiency of giving money to women, it was announced that Child Tax Credit would be paid to the main carer — usually a woman — rather than to the main earner — usually a man. 

Gender Budgeting in India

  • Introduction: Gender budgeting as a concept was introduced in the 2001 Union Budget with a vision to address the massive gender inequality in India.
  • Implementation: Since 2005, the union government releases Gender Budgeting Statement consisting of two parts.
    • The first part reflects women-specific schemes in which 100 percent allocation is only for women.
    • The second part reflects pro-women schemes in which 30% of allocation is earmarked for women.
  • Improvements made: In recent years, the schemes like MNREGA, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Sukanya Samridhi Yojna, and Ujjawala Yojna with their focus on women have made significant improvements in socio-economic conditions of women.
  • For instance, MNREGA has gender-sensitive components, incorporating clauses that specify definitive quotas of beneficiaries as women

Issues in Gender Budgeting in India

  • Lack of budgetary allocation: Overtime, the magnitude of gender budget as a proportion of total expenditure of Union Budget has decreased. Budgetary allocations for promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment have also declined.
    • Central government’s gender budget has never been more 1% of India’s GDP. 
    • Funds allocated for GRB still confine to 5% of public expenditure. 
  • Non-utilisation of gender-specific funds: There are only a few “big-budget” women exclusive schemes of the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) like the Nirbhaya Fund and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign; these too face issues of non-utilisation of funds.
  • Implementation and Monitoring issues: There is a lack of dedicated and skilled human resources to implement the interventions identified in Gender budgets. Monitoring the gender budgetary allocation is one of the biggest concerns, with no designated mechanism for monitoring at a national level.
  • Other issues that remain: 
    • India's gender budget has stagnated in recent years. 
    • Only a small proportion of the gender budget is allocated towards women-specific schemes. 
    • Even schemes classified as 100% women-specific are not so, for example, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). 
    • Within women-specific schemes, the bulk of spending goes towards rural housing. 
    • Spending on part B is more diverse but concentrated in four ministries (Health, Education, WCD, Rural Development). 
    • Share of women MPs and ministers has increased, but still not representative of the population of women, having an adverse consequence on gender-related policy-making. 

Five-Step Framework for Gender Budgeting

  • Gender Analysis: An analysis of the situation for women and men and girls and boys (and the different sub-groups) in a given sector.
  • Assessing gender gaps: The assessment of the extent to which the sector’s policy addresses the gender issues and gaps described in the first step.
  • Budgetary allocation: An assessment of the adequacy of budget allocations to implement the gender-sensitive policies and programmes identified.
  • Fiscal tracking: Monitoring whether the money was spent as planned, what was delivered and to whom.
  • Outcome assessment: An assessment of the impact of the policy/ programme/scheme and the extent to which the original issues identified have improved. 

Policy recommendations

  • Integration with intergovernmental transfers: Fiscal policies to tackle gender equalities should be integrated with the intergovernmental fiscal transfer mechanisms through the Finance Commission and at the subnational public finance practices.
    •  It can be integrated into every programme and scheme of the Government of India, departments of the Union, State and PRI Budgets. 
  • Increase allocation: There is a need to increase allocations for women focussed programmes. Funds need to be targeted towards priority sectors, which suffer from the deepest gender inequalities. 
  • Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC): Recently constituted FFC should integrate gender (budgeting) criteria in their formula-based fiscal transfers.
    • Horizontal transfer formula with the inclusion of indicators of gender equality.
    • Linking vertical transfers with an allowance for gender-specific policies and programmes.
    • FC’s grant-in-aid with specific emphasis on gendered outcomes.
    • Consideration of cess and surcharge for gender-specific policies and programmes.
  • Lahiri Committee recommendations: These recommendations provided a clear roadmap for preparing the analytical matrices for gender budgeting and institutional mechanisms like Gender Budgeting Cells at the national and subnational government levels in India. 
  • State involvement:  States should be ranked on the quality of gender budgets, impact analyses, and gender audits should be conducted of these allocations.
    • Capacity building and technical support should be provided to State-level Gender Budget Cells. 
  • Revising FRBM incorporating gender goals: Fiscal consolidation and the New Fiscal Reform and Budget Management (FRBM) framework also needs to be analysed whether the revised framework has integrated SDGs, including the Goal No: 5 on gender equality.

Conclusion

Women warrant special attention due to their vulnerability and lack of access to resources. The way Government budgets allocate resources has the potential to transform gender inequalities. In view of this, Gender Budgeting, as a tool for achieving gender mainstreaming can be extremely useful. Gender-targeted spending creates a virtuous cycle and has a multiplier effort on women’s living standards, and overall growth and development. 

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