Budgeting for Equity

Spending decisions impact men and women differently

This blog was written by Nevena Ivanovic, Women’s Centre Public Policy Coordinator

If budgets are about the choices governments must make with limited resources, no budget is gender neutral, and every budget is a feminist issue. Over the last month, we have heard a lot about gender and budgets. The recent federal budget used a tool called gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to examine how decisions – such as spending and tax measures – affect different people differently. The goal is to be able to use this information to bring forward policies that will reduce inequalities between men and women.

In the past, both federal and provincial governments have made choices that brought in tax and public services cuts. This is an issue with gender implications because when we examine tax brackets and income, almost 40% of Canadian women do not even make enough money to be taxed. (This is true for over 25% of Canadian men.) Women, on average, have much smaller incomes than their male counterparts, own less capital, and have fewer investment assets. Because of this, most of the benefits of tax cuts fall to men in higher income brackets.

Losing revenue to tax cuts means governments must cut public services. Cuts to public services hurt women on two fronts. As the primary employees of the public sector, women might lose their jobs or deal with the fallout of inadequate funds for schools or long-term care. Also, women rely on public services – such as health care, affordable housing, public transit – more than male counterparts in their everyday lives. Cuts in services put additional burdens on women, and take away opportunities for those impacted to participate in society. This makes tax cuts a choice that affects different groups of women and men differently.

Women and the Alberta Economy

It’s no secret to Albertans that our province has struggled with unstable revenues following the dramatic drop in the price of oil. Simply put, the province does not raise enough revenues through its tax system to maintain the level of public services and social supports that people, and women in particular, require and rely on.

Women in Alberta are among the most educated women in Canada, yet we are paid less, employed less often, and make up the majority of low income and minimum wage workers. We do the bulk of unpaid work, including a disproportionate amount of child and senior care. We are half of the population, but earn only a third of all the money that’s earned in the province. We still disproportionately head lone-parent families (3 out of 4 lone-parent families are headed by women), and the poverty rate for women who are lone-parents and their children is much higher than for their male counterparts.

There are a number of investments that can significantly contribute to reducing inequalities between men and women. These include:

  • Investments into accessible, affordable childcare
  • Investment in sectors and occupations where women are concentrated, such as health and social services and teaching
  • Adequate minimum wage, child benefits and income supports

An overwhelming amount of evidence connects these kind of investments, which advance gender equality, with the development of a prosperous economy.

The benefits of a feminist budget – one that invests in childcare, a strong public sector, and adequate minimum wage, child benefits and income supports – are not just felt by women. These are investments in the community that are felt and shared by all members of our community – men, women, children, youth and seniors from diverse backgrounds. A feminist budget, then, is a critical first step in ensuring equity in social inclusion and participation for all Albertans.

One Response to Budgeting for Equity

  1. Yvonne Stanford says:

    Great piece, Nevena. Thank you.
    someday we will include guaranteed basic income when we talk about income supports!