Gender Budgets: The Experience of the UK Women’s Budget Group


Rake, Katherine. 2002. “Gender Budgets: The Experience of the UK Women’s Budget Group." Paper presented at conference on Gender Balance - Equal Finance, Basle, Switzerland.

Author: Katherine Rake



Drawing on the experience of the UK’s Women’s Budget Group (WBG), this paper starts by defining what a gender budget is, outlines the imperatives to conduct a gender budget and then proceeds to detail how such a budget may be constructed. It reflects upon the political, institutional and ideological transformations that are needed for such a process to be successful. Before embarking on the main body of the paper, however, some background on the work of the WBG is necessary.

The Women’s Budget Group has lobbied successive Governments on gender and economic policy since 1989. It is an independent organisation that brings together academics and people from non-governmental organisations and trades unions to promote gender equality through appropriate economic policy. The WBG has gained extensive access to policy-makers and now works most closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury (the UK’s Ministry of Finance). The annual Budget, and now the Pre-Budget Report, provide opportunities for the WBG to lobby Treasury on a range of social and economic issues. We also have a series of meetings throughout the year which may be focused on particular policy reforms, on issues of analysis and on ways that Treasury might use gender analysis to improve its economic policy making. For example, we have recently had meetings in which the Treasury’s model of the UK economy was scrutinised for gender blindness and we are currently meeting with Treasury to discuss how a gender perspective might be introduced in the planning of the next three years’ of Government expenditure. It should be noted that our independence from Government makes us rather unique in an international context where most gender budget initiatives are internal to Government. Although there are considerable advantages of having an independent body scrutinise policy for its gender effects, as discussed in section four below, there are limits to how far external organisations can go in conducting gender budgets. There is an irony also in the fact that most gender budget work in the UK is generated by the unpaid labour of feminist economists.

The work of the WBG is focussed at the national level, but it has links with a group that has a similar aim for Scotland, and with both NGOs and intergovernmental organisations that promote gender budgeting internationally. In short, our aims are to:

·         develop analysis and lead debate on the gender implications of economic policy, 
bearing in mind the multiple dimensions of women’s disadvantage;

·         expand understanding among policy makers and opinion formers of the gender 
implications of economic policy and give policy advice;

·         promote gender mainstreaming in economic policy making, presentation and 

·         work with other organisations to raise public awareness of gender equality issues in economic policy and the importance of assessing the effects of economic policy on women.

Topics: Economies, Gender, Gender Budgeting Regions: Europe, Northern Europe Countries: United Kingdom

Year: 2002

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