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Åsa Regnér is no longer a government minister, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality
Speech by Sweden’s Minister for Gender Equality about gender budgeting at OECD meeting
Speech by Åsa Regnér, Minister for Gender Equality, at the OECD-meeting for Working Party of Senior Budget Officials (SBO), at "Tekniska Museet" in Stockholm, June 9th 2016.
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Ladies and gentlemen,
I am proud to address this meeting of the OECD as Minister for Gender Equality, representing a feminist government, and talk to you about gender budgeting. We, in declaring ourselves a feminist government, are committed to making a difference in people's lives: to promote gender equality with a policy agenda that combats inhibitive gender roles and structures, so that women and men, boys and girls can live their lives to their full potential. It is a matter of recognizing gender inequality, that women and men do not have access to resources and power on equal terms, and committing to make a change.
In this endeavour we recognise the crucial role that economics play. To advance gender equality in society, not only here in Sweden, but everywhere, we must allocate adequate resources to that end.
Sweden's feminist government is now stepping up our ambitions to make a change, and achieve our goal of a gender-equal society in which girls and boys, women and men are given the same power to shape society and their own lives. That goal requires dedicated work and we are realising it through choice of priorities, paths and allocation of resources, that promotes gender equality.
Gender equality is an engine driving social development and genuine change in society and people's lives. Gender equality is a prerequisite for sustainable economic development, as well as development of the labour market, and the welfare state. It is clear that gender equality is part of the solution to many of the challenges we face in our societies today. Hence, including gender equality in policy making is smart – it makes better use of resources spent and it makes policy more efficient. Gender equality is also a matter of human rights, of democracy and of justice. It is not a gift to women.
In Sweden, we have a telling experience that demonstrates the connection between economic reforms, allocation of resources and the advancement of gender equality in society: In the 1970's important reforms were implemented within the labour market and social policy, such as separate income taxation [for wife and husband]; gender-neutral parental leave; and development of affordable public childcare. These reforms pushed gender equality, and increased women's access to the labour market on an equal footing with men. Women gained access to gainful employment, and greater financial independence, which increased their well-being and bargaining power in the household. These reforms also contributed to the development of a modern welfare state in Sweden.
Gender equality has contributed to Sweden's high levels of employment and growth. But it has not happened by itself; it is largely the result of political decisions. There needs to be commitment to create fair and gender equal conditions for women and men, girls and boys. Ladies and gentlemen, as Senior Budget Officials you all play important roles in this. You can make a difference.
To achieve gender equality the strategy of gender mainstreaming is crucial. Gender equality is created where resources are allocated, where standards are set and where decisions are made. In a feminist government, each minister is also a minister for gender equality, responsible for the advancement of gender equality in their policy areas. As the Minister responsible for gender equality policy, I work with my colleagues in the government to ensure that we continue to develop our feminist policy and work strategically to achieve real change.
While gender mainstreaming is an essential tool it must be combined with special measures for gender equality. This dual approach is necessary to move ahead on gender equality. While we must include a gender perspective when formulating reforms and developing policy we must also be willing to implement specific policies and actions - and spend money - targeting gender inequality. For Sweden, this dual approach has been a strategic choice for implementation of gender equality policy since the mid- 1990's.
Economic policy is crucial for shaping living conditions; how resources are distributed and what is considered important and is prioritised has a major effect on women's and men's lives and conditions. The budget process and the Budget Bill are of key importance in realising the government's policy and it is therefore imperative that all budget work is conducted so that effects and consequences for gender equality is taken into consideration when decisions are made about policy direction or distribution of resources.
Consequently, gender budgeting is an important part of the government's efforts to implement a feminist agenda. Economic policy in Sweden is to be used to increase economic equality and support advancement of gender equality in society. An extensive effort to further develop gender budgeting in the state budget is now under way in Sweden. We define gender budgeting as an application of gender mainstreaming in the budgetary process. Thus, a gender perspective must be included in the preparation of the government's Budget Bill from the outset, and by the actors normally involved in the process.
Our renewed focus on gender budgeting has resulted in improved and more extensive gender equality analysis and a more systematic use of statistics disaggregated by sex, among other things.
However, it is not enough that we conduct an analysis of gender impact for a specific policy, and we must not stop at just presenting statistics disaggregated by sex. The conditions that apply to women and men, girls and boys must inform our policy making. As policy makers we have an obligation to use the data we have at our hands, to rectify gender inequality that we see.
To move from words to action, we must make gender equality part of all policy making and we need to allocate adequate resources to implement policy for gender equality. To this end we have initiated a work to formulate objectives for gender equality in several highly prioritised and strategic policy areas. These objectives constitute a way to make concrete how we can move forward on implementation of our gender equality policy goals, and realise the government's feminist aspirations. Customised policy objectives and actions for gender equality, along with indicators to follow up the result, have been formulated. These strategic policy areas are labour market, health and social policy, education, foreign and development policy, and juridical policy.
The Swedish government has recently taken important steps to ensure that the preparation of the Budget Bill for 2017 is gender mainstreamed. Among other things, we have a formalised requirement [in the budget circular] that policy proposals and reforms presented in the Budget Bill must be based on gender equality impact analyses, and new policy should be developed with a gender-sensitive approach.
Moreover, a step-by-step guide on how to conduct a gender equality analysis [in the budget process] has been developed, and trainings are provided for officials in the Government Offices. Policy statements and formal requirements are important but we must also provide hands-on, operative support to people in our organisations.
Let me illustrate the significance of a gender analysis in policy development, with an example from the realm of education: in Sweden school results differ significantly between girls and boys, girls perform well and get good grades while boys lag behind. Girls, on the other hand, suffer from stress related health issues, and report a higher degree of socio-psychological problems than their male peers. So, measures to deal with these challenges must take gendered differences into consideration: health work in schools and efforts to improve school results must be designed so that they are apt for the needs and conditions of both boys and girls.
The Swedish government will now continue to enhance our work with gender budgeting, with a view to ensuring that policy will contribute to gender equality. A feminist government's policy agenda must be paired with allocation of resources and a true commitment to making a change.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that we need to work with gender budgeting to move ahead on gender equality, create sustainable growth, development, and social justice. I hope that this afternoon will present an occasion to exchange thoughts, ideas and experiences that will inspire us to take new steps towards gender equal budgets. Investments in gender equality are investments in the future. Half of the world's talent must have the opportunity to blossom.