Gender budgeting, a new pillar for policymakers

Gender budgeting is an important part of Europe’s goal of policy funding that takes both men and women into consideration. Highlighting the value of cross-border cooperation, 15 municipalities in Austria and the Czech Republic successfully joined forces on a project to achieve greater gender equality and adapted their budgets accordingly.

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A relatively new concept and core component of gender mainstreaming, gender budgeting aims for gender-equal allocation of financial resources. Advantages of this process include more efficient and effective budgets, greater transparency in terms of the criteria that underpin budget-making decisions, and better targeting of available funds for different social groups.

In the ‘Gender Fokus’ project, which ran from 2008 until 2011, the Lower Austrian Regional Government worked on gender budgeting with two regional administrations in the Czech Republic. Their objective was to determine the necessary procedures for gender budgeting at local and regional levels. The partners – including a total of 15 pilot municipalities from the two countries – met regularly and were connected in a common network.

Gender assessments

Following basic training on gender equality and under the guidance of experts, taskforces worked in all the municipalities on their particular budgets. Their main goal was to conduct gender-relevant assessments of the expenses of the municipalities, and to learn more about the problem of recognition of gender gaps. Key questions included: Who lives in our municipality? Are men and women there impacted in different ways by public policies? What services do local authorities provide and for whom? At what cost?

Once these questions had been analysed, the project teams looked at the influence of expenses on gender equality. They also assessed the actions required to achieve equal opportunities for men and women. As a result, and where necessary, the municipalities adapted their budgets.

Depending on their particular situation, the municipalities concentrated on various different activities to boost gender equality. Among these were facilitation of childcare for children under three years of age (which enhances women’s employment prospects); employing women in a municipality-run tourism project; integrating the gender perspective into mobility; drafting gender-relevant guidelines for subsidies for associations or societies; and implementing the gender perspective into a new data warehouse for municipal finances.

The project helped to make gender equality a cornerstone of each municipality’s budgets. This is especially important in Austria since January 2013, as the nation’s Federal constitution requires federal and regional governments as well as municipalities to aim at gender equality in their budgets. Gender Fokus also developed a practical guidance document on gender budgeting and easy-to-read brochures in Czech and German, describing the lessons learned. These documents were disseminated in meetings and conferences, as well as via the project website.

International interest

In February 2012, a representative of the Lower Austrian administration was invited to present the project in Brussels, Belgium, to a gender mainstreaming meeting organised by the European Commission. Three months later, a delegation of the South Korean Gender Budgeting Research Institute and the South Korean Ministry for Gender Equality and Family visited Lower Austria to learn about Gender Fokus. Project results have also been transferred to Malaysia and Ukraine.

Lower Austria benefited enormously from this project. Our practical ways of implementing equal opportunities in the administration of budgets has been confirmed and considered a good example. Many organisations in Europe and beyond have thus shown interest in this project.”

- Friedrich Zibuschka, Chairman of the Gender Mainstreaming task group, Lower Austria

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Gender Fokus” was EUR 495 900, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 110 475 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period through the Operational Programme “European Territorial Cooperation Austria-Czech Republic 2007-13”.

Draft date