Federal budget-making process not meeting women’s needs—report

September 19, 2005

OTTAWA — The federal government's current budgetary process is leaving women behind.

A new report by Isabella Bakker, released today by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), concludes that if women are to be equal benefactors of federal budget surpluses, the federal government must stop ignoring its domestic and international commitments to undertake gender budget analysis in Canada.

Gender budget initiatives analyze public money through the lens of gender and attempt to break down national or local budgets according to their impact on women and men, boys and girls.

While the budget appears to be a gender-neutral policy instrument, government expenditures and taxes impact men and women differently, particularly since men and women generally occupy different social and economic positions. As of 2000 in Canada, the average wage for a full time full year female worker was $34,892 verses $49,224 for male workers. Further, half of all women with paid employment earned less than $20,000.

Canada, as a signatory to a number of UN human rights treaties, and participant at the Beijing World Conference of Women, is required to create budgets that are responsive to women’s realities.

However, evidence demonstrates that women’s socio-economic circumstances in Canada have not significantly improved since the Beijing Platform for Action was signed. This is despite seven years of multi-billion dollars federal surpluses. It is clear that the current budget-making process is not meeting the needs of women.

“Gender budget initiatives are increasingly recognized as an important tool for analyzing the gap between expressed commitments by governments and the decision-making progress involved in how governments raise and spend money,” says Bakker. “Despite their increasing legitimacy as a public policy tool, no federal, provincial, or territorial government in Canada to date has embarked upon a gender budgeting exercise.”

Bakker’s study is a next step towards putting gender budgeting in place. In December 2004, FAFIA commissioned a ground-breaking study of the gendered impact of the last 10 federal budgets, written by award-winning economist Armine Yalnizian. In the lead up to the 2005 federal budget, Finance Minister Ralph Goodale agreed to ensure future federal budgets take women’s realities into account.

Any effective gender-based budget analysis undertaken by the federal government must draw upon a body of international expertise on how to accurately account for women and men’s economic and social circumstances. Bakker, who has served as an advisor to the United Nations on gender mainstreaming, is well equipped to provide this expertise in Canada.

According to Bakker, “Applied gender budget analysis is not simply a technical exercise but a more long-term process that requires government officials to think about the economy in new ways that include the unpaid sector where much of women’s time and efforts are concentrated.”


Gender Budget Initiatives: Why They Matter in Canada is available on the CCPA web site: http://www.policyalternatives.ca

FAFIA is holding a public forum on women and budgets tomorrow, September 20, in Regina. Speakers include Isabella Bakker, Shelagh Day, and Armine Yalnizyan. For more information visit http://www.fafia-afai.org.

For more information contact Kerri-Anne Finn, CCPA Communications Officer, 613-563-1341 x306.