KPMG Australia (KPMG) strongly supports the adoption of a gender equity strategy by Australian governments at all levels.

In its 2021 Global Gender Gap Index1, the World Economic Forum noted that Australia was among 37 of the 156 surveyed jurisdictions to have eliminated its gender gap in the field of educational attainment.

Yet Australia ranked only 70th for the narrowness of its gender gap in economic participation and opportunity (behind New Zealand in 27th place, United States in 30th and Canada in 40th).

According to the federal government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), Australia’s gender pay gap for ordinary full-time earnings has only improved from around 18 percent to just under 14 percent between 2011 and 20212 and nearly all that improvement occurred before 2018. At this rate of change, we would still be talking about a gender pay gap of more than 10 percent well into the 2030s. KPMG, WGEA and Diversity Council Australia's 2022 report She's Price(d)less examines the causes of the gender pay gap in more detail.

Now is the time to consider how we can accelerate progress towards gender equity and create confidence across the community that this progress is happening.

How does gender responsive budgeting support gender equality?

One key mechanism to support governments in realising their gender equity strategy is gender responsive budgeting (GRB). GRB can act as a powerful enabler for the successful delivery of a gender equity strategy, both in terms of the direct impact on policy funding and the signal that it sends to the community about the transparency and accountability that the government is applying in carrying out the strategy.

GRB enables decision-makers, administrators and the public to evaluate how policy decisions are contributing to a government’s gender equity strategy. It also enables greater understanding of how the decision-making process is aligned to achievement of the strategy.

GRB is most effective in supporting change when it is elevated above a “tick the box” exercise. Achieving this is principally down to the culture of the administration that is making decisions based on the GRB information – that is, there should be a genuine intent that the budgeting process should be gender-responsive in order that it can contribute to achievement of a gender equity strategy that the government has articulated.

    Commencing in 2021, the Victorian Government has started to embed GRB into its decision-making processes to support the delivery of its gender equality strategy.

    In its 2022-23 Budget, the New South Wales Government released its Women’s Opportunities Statement.3

    This identifies five strategic priority areas for reform which would enable New South Wales to achieve its vision of being the best place in Australia for women to live, work and raise a family.

Gender equity strategy – practical steps for Australian governments

To enable the strategy to be supported by gender responsive budgeting, governments should:

1. Review their current levels of gender-disaggregated data in relation to each policy area and develop a plan to comprehensively collect this data in future. This will support evidence-based decision-making and enable tracking of the impacts over time.

2. Identify specific policy areas or departmental portfolios where gender inequity is most apparent. Select from these as opportunities for one or more pilot projects to apply gender budgeting techniques to address these inequities.

3. Prepare to communicate to the public how the GRB process works, including the point in the decision-making process where GRB is applied and the expected impacts of the decision on the different genders.

    As this report goes on to explore, GRB is rapidly becoming more prevalent across OECD-member jurisdictions as a tool for achieving gender equity.

    KPMG calls upon Australian governments at all levels that have not yet done so to create and publish a gender equity strategy, setting realistic and measurable goals for the next three to five years.

    To elevate gender equity across all areas of policy, Australian governments at all levels should build on what has commenced in Victoria and NSW, and consider further improvements based on the leading practices in countries like Canada and Sweden.

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