by Magda Zenon
After two years of life with Covid, we see revealed before us more intensely, inequalities between women and men in wages, pensions, poverty levels and household responsibilities.
We also see how vital care work is; much of which is done by women and if paid, it is very modest. COVID has shown that care is a collective need that requires collective responsibility starting from caring for children, for the elderly, for dependents, and caring for ourselves.
Empowering women politically and economically so that they have a voice in the decision-making process of their community makes community policies more reflective of collective interests
What is very apparent is that women have kept our societies functioning during the pandemic, beyond what they always did, with very little social recognition, appreciation and support; including structural. They are the majority of frontline healthcare professionals, also providing care to the vulnerable such as homeless women, older women and undocumented women. The vulnerable also includes individuals experiencing particular pandemic distress such as women victims of partner violence, numbers of which have skyrocketed globally during the pandemic.
They provide home care during lockdowns, replacing education and health professionals, while constantly trying to combine this unpaid work with their own professional responsibilities. They make up the majority of employees in supermarkets and food services and in the cleaning and sanitation industry.
So our current macro-economic model is founded on unsustainable growth, at the expense of exploiting, especially women, and the environment, with its limited natural resources. The way in which taxes are collected and growth and productivity are measured completely ignores the invaluable contributions of women’s unpaid, underpaid and invisible work – it is a one-size-fits-all model that is male, middle-aged, middle-class, educated, healthy and Caucasian and chooses to invest mainly in areas where men make up the majority of workers.
That this needs to change now is a no-brainer, and this is where gender budgeting comes in...
Simply put, gender budgeting, means preparing budgets or analyzing them from a gender perspective.
The purpose of Gender Budgeting is to advance gender equality and women’s rights, to promote accountability and transparency in fiscal planning and to increase gender responsive participation in the budget process, for example by taking steps to involve women and men equally in the preparation of budgets.
Gender budgeting can be applied both at the central government level, where budgetary decisions on both revenue and expenditure are made and at regional and local government levels where there is potential to respond more directly to women’s and men’s needs when it comes to public policy and service delivery. It is also firmly in the EU commitment to the implementation of gender mainstreaming that goes hand in hand with the implementation of the EU Green Deal.
Some of the practical benefits of Gender Budgeting are….
• Empowering women to become active in their economy boosts productivity.
• Empowering women politically and economically so that they have a voice in the decision-making process of their community makes community policies more reflective of collective interests
• When women have more control over family resources, more resources reach children as their spending patterns tend to benefit children and improving the lives of young people enhances the growth prospects of a country.
• According to an EIGE study, by addressing gender segregation in educational choices and increasing the participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), by 2050 there will be between 6.3 million and 10.5 million additional jobs with about 70% of these jobs taken by women AND if we address the under-representation of women in sectors with skill shortages and good employment prospects such as STEM, there will be an increase in employee productivity and in the potential productive capacity of the economy as a result.
So now is definitely the time for gender equality, time to address the real problems before us and take a horizontal approach to economics that also takes into account all the activities that are currently outside the dominant economic sphere, but without which the economy and society would not be able to function, and to include diverse voices in the preparation of fiscal policies and budgets.
With gender budgeting we will have a sustainable macroeconomic policy framework that includes the fundamental dimensions of economic, social and environmental justice; a sustainable framework that will not leave women OR anyone else behind.
Magda Zenon is a member of Hands Across the Divide, of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network and a podcaster