Women’s Policy Action Tank: Why the Women’s Budget Statement needs to be reintroduced

Gender-Responsive Budgeting improves targeted and effective social change.  Despite being an early leader in this area, Australia abruptly ceased issuing a Women’s Budget Statement (WBS) in 2013.  Today’s post argues that the WBS ought to be resurrected as an integrated analysis of the budget process itself.

Scorecard on Women and Policy provided by Yvonne Lay, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand

Topic:  Federal Budgeting Process

Sub-topic: Women’s Budget Statement

Australia was seen as a pioneer in Gender-Responsive Budgeting (GRB) in the 1980s and received international acclaim. In 1984 the Hawke Labor government released the first Women’s Budget Statement (WBS) as part of the 1984/85 budget documents. Successive federal governments continued with the WBS, although the standard of rigorous gender analysis diminished, replaced by the government’s policy achievements.[i]  The release of WBS continued until 2013 when it was abruptly scrapped.

What is gender responsive budgeting?

Gender responsive budgeting (GRB) is ‘an analysis of the impact of the budget on gender equality and a process of changing budgetary decision-making and priorities’, and is a component of gender mainstreaming, which is defined in the ECOSOC agreed conclusions, 1997/2 as:

 ‘…the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies and programmes, in all areas and at all levels. It is a strategy for making women’s as well as men’s concerns and experiences an integral dimension of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes in all political, economic and societal sphereseco so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality’.

Gender mainstreaming is also embedded in goal 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals as a key tool in advancing and achieving gender equality.

2016 Budget silent on gender

Sadly, this year’s federal budget was relatively silent on gender. Undoubtedly, one area that has an almost ‘in-built’ gendered lens, due to much of the work done by women’s advocate groups, is domestic and family violence. In recent years we as a society have woven domestic and family violence into the public discourse, and there is growing understanding and acceptance that domestic and family violence is a gendered issue, in that an overwhelming number of reported victims are female, and the majority of reported perpetrators are male. The budget reflected this, however it failed to apply a gendered lens in all other aspects.

For instance, consider the issue of child care. The introduction of the $3.3 billion child care package by the Turnbull Government in the 2016 Budget will be delayed until at least 2018 as it is directly tied to proposed cuts to family payments and paid parental leave, which is currently stuck in the Senate.

The availability, accessibility and affordability of childcare provisions directly affects women’s capacity to enter the paid workforce. If we analyse this child care package alongside the Turnbull Government’s commitment to providing ‘specific assistance to women to ensure they are empowered, safe and assisted through Australia’s economic transition…[and] boost women’s workforce participation, strengthen women’s economic security and further ensure women and their children are safe from violence’[ii], the delaying of the child care package, alongside the cutting of Family Tax Benefit and PPL is blatantly contradictory, and ‘has negative consequences for women and families’.[iii]

Without a gendered analysis, the budget fails to recognise, and thus remedy, the fact that

·      women who are currently in the paid workforce on average earn $284.20 per week less than men;

·      lone-mother families make up 16 per cent of all families with children aged 0 – 17, compared to 3 per cent of lone-father families;

·      59 per cent of those seeking assistance through specialist homelessness services are women;

·      women make up the overwhelming majority of recipients of Family Tax Benefits distributed to lone-parent families; and

·      that more than 99 per cent of all Parental Leave Pay recipients in 2012 – 2013 were female, with only one in fifty men taking parental leave.

These are only some of the factors that, unless considered when devising a budget, will adversely impact Australian women and fundamentally hinder Australia’s progress towards a truly equal society underpinned by social wellbeing and economic security. 

Mainstreaming gender analysis

The moving of the Office for Women back into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has the potential to give greater coordination and oversight in policy and budget development, connecting gender across the whole of government. To achieve gender equality, the government must invest in the rigorous gender analysis required to truly understand how its policies will affect men and women. Further, whether it is called a Women’s Budget Statement or by another name, the analysis process itself must be integrated into the overall budget planning and decision-making process, rather than a post-hoc add-on following budget completion.

Without this, Australia will achieve very little by way of gender equality despite the rhetoric.  As the OECD states, ‘the most powerful instrument of governance, the priorities and practices outlined in budgets reveal much about a government’s priorities for its citizens and, in turn, signal its commitment to gender equality.’[iv] Based on the 2016 budget, it is unfortunate to conclude that commitment to gender equality is severely lacking.



[i] Sharp, R., and Broomhill, R. 2013, A case study of gender responsive budgeting in Australia, Research Report, Commonwealth Secretariat, http://www.sapo.org.au/binary/binary13061/Gender.pdf.

[ii] Turnbull, M, 2016, Budget delivers for Australian women, Media Release, 4th May 2016, http://www.malcolmturnbull.com.au/media/budget-delivers-for-australian-women

[iii] National Foundation for Australian Women, 2016, A gender lens: Budget 2016 – 17, Canberra: National Foundation of Australian Women.

[iv] OECD, 2014, Women, Government and Policy Making in OECD Countries: Fostering diversity for inclusive growth, OECD Publishing, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264210745-en


This analysis is a contribution to the Scorecard on Women and Policy project, initiated by the Women's Policy Action Tank.  We invite policy specialists in all areas to provide analysis of public policy using a gender lens:  womenspolicy@goodshep.org.au  Follow us on Twitter: @PolicyforWomen