Gender Equality, Public Finance and Globalization


Elson, Diane. 2004. "Gender Equality, Public Finance and Globalization." Paper presented at the Conference on Egalitarian Development in the Era of Globalization, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, April 22-24.

Author: Diane Elson


‘Global inequalities in the distribution of income, wealth, power and influence are enormous and the spread of rapid and cheap global communications has increased the awareness of hundreds of millions of people of widespread injustice and the unfairness of the global economic and political system. Increasingly it is recognised that equity is a global public good…’ (Griffin, 2003:800).

This paper considers a particular dimension of inequality, the inequality between women and men; and boys and girls. It considers the inter-relation between, on the one hand, attempts to make public finance more gender- equitable; and on the other, the fiscal squeeze produced by some aspects of globalisation. 

The Beijing Platform for Action, agreed at the UN Fourth World Conference for Women in 1995, specifically endorsed measures to ‘engender’ government budgets, calling in Paragraph 345 for: the integration of a gender perspective in budgetary decisions on polices and programmes, as well as adequate financing of specific programmes for securing equality between women and men. 

Over the last decade, a series of gender budget initiatives (GBIs), in both South and North, have sought to improve the distribution, adequacy and impact of government budgets at national, regional and local levels; and to secure greater transparency in the use of public money; and greater accountability to women as citizens. The spread of GBIs has itself been an example of globalisation, in this case the globalisation of action for gender justice; facilitated by email, internet and air travel; supported by international foundations and international development cooperation funds.

But, it may be argued, GBIs have begun to engage with public finance just at the time when governments, especially in the South, have less and less control over public finance decisions, due to other aspects of globalisation. Globalisation of trade, investment and finance puts pressure on government to reduce tax revenues and reduce public expenditure, even as it creates a need for more investment in public goods to counteract inequality and insecurity. 

This paper considers the weaknesses and strengths of GBIs as they seek to promote gender equality in the diminished national fiscal space; and discusses the changes in global governance that are needed if efforts to make public finance more gender equitable are to be fruitful.

Topics: Economies, Economic Inequality, Public Finance, Gender, Gender Budgeting, Globalization

Year: 2004

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