Context and policy overview
The City of Vienna has pioneered innovative gender-inclusive policies for decades. Since 2000 it has committed to gender mainstreaming in all aspects of municipal governance.
It developed five guiding principles: (i) use gender-sensitive language and images; (ii) collect and analyse gender-specific data; (iii) provide equal access to services; (iv) involve women and men equally in decision-making; and (v) integrate equal treatment into steering processes.
As a fiscal tool, gender budgeting was first deployed to achieve gender equality in 2005, three years before it was introduced into the federal constitution. Gender budgeting entails collecting gender-disaggregated data to highlight imbalances in the use and distribution of services and resources, and using budgetary tools to address these gaps. Its main aim is therefore to distribute the budget equitably across people of different genders. Using gender-disaggregated data, gender budgeting can address this issue by allowing public servants to map who will benefit from the financial resources and services, how the services are used and whether the chosen distribution of resources increases or decreases existing differences between the sexes.
It should be pointed out, however, that gender-based budgeting is not seeking to provide the same amount of financial transfers to men and women. Rather it is to ensure that investments, services and policies are not biased against any particular gender or that municipal activities do not cement current inequalities between the sexes.
Before deploying gender budgeting at the city level, the Finance Department, in cooperation with the Department for Gender Mainstreaming, ran a pilot project in Vienna’s 12th district. Out of the city’s 23 districts, the 12th, also known as Meidling, presented some ideal characteristics to host the pilot, given its geographical size and the fact that it presided over a sufficient number of citizens to make the comparison with other districts meaningful. Indeed, in Vienna political action happens at the district level, as districts manage expenditures related to infrastructure development and maintenance, making it more effective than across the city as a whole.
First, a report capturing the demographic composition of Meidling, such as gender, age and income, was generated. Public servants were trained to become gender budgeting officers working closely with project managers for gender mainstreaming.
The pilot project identified a lack of information on the gendered use of services as an area for improvement, a consideration that subsequently informed the gender budgeting at the city level.
Informed by the pilot project, the implementation of gender budgeting followed eight steps.
- Disseminating information among district representatives to inform them about gender budgeting.
- Commissioning the initial demographic surveys done at the district level.
- Collecting gender-differentiated data at the district level.
- Conducting gender analysis on the data to assess the needs of different users.
- Evaluating and identifying fields of action based on the insights from the gender analysis.
- Selecting priority areas from all fields of action identified.
- Preparing documentation related to the survey data, the objectives, and the decisions made regarding the budget for public dissemination.
- Reviewing the implementation of the projects regarding the objectives identified in point 6.
The structure of the budget itself is adapted to reflect the goals of gender budgeting. For each line in the budget, considerations related to gender-specific goals are made explicit; each budget item contains expected indicators of success and accounts for the expected share of users by gender. For example, a road project will specify the expected number of female and male beneficiaries.
Barriers and critical success factors
Gender-sensitive data are essential for effective gender budgeting, as the strategic funding priorities need to be based on the characteristics of the population which the budget seeks to serve.
Initially, Vienna collected data at the city level; however, district-level data were necessary to manage the funds effectively. The mismatch between the governance structure and the granularity of the data posed an initial barrier to the project’s success. However, this became evident during the pilot and was amended for successive iterations of the budget.
Among the critical success factors, it is important to note that Vienna’s experience with gender budgeting was anchored in a robust municipal framework of gender-mainstreaming. Vienna showed a clear political commitment to developing a gender equality policy and implementing gender budgeting as part of a larger strategy to foster gender equality in the city. Similarly, the public servants in charge of implementing the initiative were able to access a wealth of technical expertise acquired through other initiatives carried out under the gender mainstreaming framework over the years.
Furthermore, collecting gender-disaggregated data and conducting a gender analysis was essential to ensure the initiative complied with its initial objective of distributing the budget fairly. This means that, other than collecting data on the users’ demographic for a specific service, the administration would seek to understand what determined the gendered usage pattern in the first place.
Results and lessons learned
Vienna has been implementing gender budgeting at the city level since 2006, reinforcing the impact of other policies for gender mainstreaming. As such, gender budgeting is intrinsically linked to the larger gender mainstreaming effort in Vienna.
Some examples of investments achieved through gender budgeting include parks that have been redesigned to become more user-friendly for women by adding lighting and shared spaces for caretakers, wider pavements and more pedestrian paths.
Vienna’s experience with gender budgeting can be useful in informing decision-makers who wish to embed social considerations into the distribution of resources in their municipalities. Some of the lessons learned are listed below.
- A pilot project can serve as an opportunity to test the most effective structure for both the surveys and data-gathering efforts, and the implementation cycle of gender budgeting as a whole.
- Since gender-sensitive data are crucial for effective gender budgeting, it is important to design surveys for the census that capture data at the same governance level where the distribution of funds is managed.
- Up-to-date gender-disaggregated data are important to identify funding priorities in compliance with the principles of gender budgeting.
- Gender considerations need to be streamlined into all stages of the implementation process, from data collection through to implementation, to ensure that the strategic objectives of its project are met. This requires change management efforts and genuine top-level political commitment.
- Buy-in from decision-makers and the political will to carry projects forward is vital for their success and for the development of expertise that can be leveraged to improve and expand the projects.