Gender budgeting promotes equality and is needed also in Finland

Economy and economic decision-making are also gender and equality questions. Researcher Hanna Ylöstalo wants to introduce gender budgeting to Finland.

A budget is never gender neutral. Decisions related to budgeting affect different groups of people in different ways, which is why a gender perspective is required in drafting budgets.

Gender budgeting is a new way of promoting gender equality. It aims to transform the allocation of public spending and revenue in a way that promotes equality. 

-Gender budgeting introduces a gender and equality perspective to the hard core of politics, economic policy and government budgets, says Hanna Ylöstalo, researcher from the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, who is studying the subject matter.

According to Ylöstalo, gender budgeting is good budgeting. Not only does it promote equality between genders, it also improves fact-based decision-making by providing information about the gender impact of economic policy, in other words who are impacted by economic policy.

-Alas, it is still in its infancy in Finland, says Ylöstalo.

Work ahead for the new government

According to Ylöstalo, for example, income distribution and employment effects have not been evaluated much from a gender perspective in Finland. In a review published as a part of Sipilä’s government’s equality programme Tasa-arvoa talousarvioon (in English ‘Increasing equality in budget’), researchers demonstrated that in recent years changes in taxation and social security benefits have profited men more than women. Women’s disposable income has decreased in proportion more often and more than that of men.

-Especially index cuts and freezes to social benefits have undermined economic equality between women and men. The cuts have been directed more at women, since they receive more benefits than men.

Economic inequality is gendered; women are in a weaker economic position in society than men. Gender budgeting may increase the economic equality between genders, because it enables, for example, budget cuts to be allocated more equally among various groups of people.

Gender perspective is taken strongly into account in the government budget in Sweden

Few calculations related to income distribution impacts based on a gender perspective are made in Europe. In Finland, after the publication of the Tasa-arvoa talousarvioon report, the gender impact of the 2019 government budget has been evaluated. On the other hand, gender perspective calculations on the distribution of income have been conducted as a part of drawing up a budget for some time already in Sweden.  

All this requires political will and leadership.

-It is the time to introduce gender budgeting already when drawing up a government programme, for example, by evaluating the gender impact of the budget, says Ylöstalo.

-The government’s commitment to gender budgeting in its programme would be an important expression of support for gender budgeting and, in the final analysis, for gender equality. Moreover, the Ministry of Finance plays a major role in this.

Docent Hanna Ylöstalo works as a researcher in the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies at the University of Helsinki. She studies equality politics and has defended her dissertation on gender studies at the University of Tampere.


Making a gender perspective mainstream

According to the widely used definition of the Council of Europe, gender budgeting is the mainstreaming of gender perspectives into the whole process of public finance management. The aim is establish changes promoting gender equality in the allocation of public spending and revenue as well as activities financed with public funding.