Report on Gender Budgeting: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann shall consider the Report of the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight entitled ‘Report on Gender Budgeting’, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 30th May, 2018.

I have been nominated to move the motion by the Chairman of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, Deputy Colm Brophy, on what is a comprehensive and important report entitled Report on Gender Budgeting. I thank the committee staff for their work in putting together this report. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the work of Catherine McCarthy in assisting the committee.

This is the first opportunity we have had to hold a substantive debate on gender budgeting. The committee engaged with several stakeholders during the past two years on the equality budgeting agenda. They highlighted the important role that the Committee on Budgetary Oversight can play in improving the budgetary process by scrutinising the impact of various budget measures on different groups in society. In the course of its work the committee met the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Social Justice Ireland, Mental Health Reform, Inclusion Ireland, the Disability Federation of Ireland and the Irish Wheelchair Association. We also received assistance from the Parliamentary Budget Office and officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, who provided useful evidence about the practical challenges involved in implementing an equality budgeting pilot programme.

A Programme for a Partnership Government made commitments to develop the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights. It states that arrangements will be put in place to support budget proofing within key Departments. In this regard the role of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight is to encourage greater transparency in the budget process and to monitor progress in rolling out gender and equality budgeting in Ireland.

One may ask what is gender budgeting. At its most simple, it is a way of assessing budgets from a gender perspective and looking at how they impact specifically on men and women. In other words, gender budgeting examines the impact of budgetary measures on individuals and groups. In practice, gender budgeting can be achieved by asking a number of key questions: what impact does this fiscal measure have on gender equality; and does it increase it, decrease it or leave it unchanged. It is only by using these questions as a framework for budget scrutiny and budget policy formulation that we will progress to fully gender and equality-proofed budgets.

Equality budgeting is particularly important. The Dáil should note that gender budgeting is advocated by a number of international organisations, including the OECD and the World Bank. They argue that there are many historical inequalities between the sexes and that budgets are not usually framed with issues such as the reduction of gender inequality in mind. Today, almost half of OECD countries are carrying out different types of gender assessment relating to the budget. Nevertheless, cultural change is required. This is definitely the case in the Irish context. The members of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight are keen to assist in leading that cultural change. International evidence suggests civil servants and politicians need to recognise that the budget is not a gender-neutral exercise. That was the thinking up until recent decades. Such thinking is even reflected in the present day, and we can see evidence of that thinking in the present day in some Departments. For example, many of the chapters in the 2018 tax strategy group papers contain a single line statement regarding the gender and equality implication of various proposed tax measures. Most of these statements simply state that there are no specific gender or equality implications with regard to a particular fiscal measure.

Many gender equality experts have cited this so-called veil of neutrality as one of the obstacles to implementing gender budgeting and putting women on an equal economic footing. In a recent study on gender equality, Dr. Angela O'Hagan explained that for gender budgeting to be truly transformative there needs to be recognition that women have had and continue to have an unequal economic status in society and, therefore, public policy must seek to redress the undervalued, underpaid, under-represented and unequal status of women currently and historically. This is one of the main goals of equality budgeting.

While the committee recognises the challenges involved in implementing gender budgeting processes, it also believes that the benefits to Irish society far outweigh the difficulties. The substantial benefits include improved economic performance, improved design and transparency of budget measures, good governance and, crucially, increased confidence in Government.

Where does the improved economic performance come from? Gender budgeting is not a new concept. Research has established the link between equality and economic growth. For example, in 2014 an IMF note stated:

The Fund has recognized in recent years that one cannot separate issues of economic growth and stability on one hand and equality on the other. Indeed, there is a strong case for considering inequality and an inability to sustain economic growth as two sides of the same coin.

The European Institute for Gender Equality carried out a study in 2017 to estimate the socioeconomic impact of improved gender equality. The study found that improving gender equality across the EU could potentially result in 10.5 million additional jobs by 2050. That would represent an increase in GDP per capita of almost 10% by 2050.

The benefits of gender budgeting extend beyond simply economic performance. Implementing gender budgeting processes can also help to achieve broader aims of budgetary reform. In its report, Towards Gender Responsive Budgeting in Ireland, the National Women's Council of Ireland stated that gender budgeting was good budgeting as it could help to increase accountability, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency of the budget formulation process. The report said it could also help to avoid the expense and time required to reverse unequal policy measures. One such example of an unequal policy measure was the change to the pension bands in 2012, which had a negative impact on female pensions in particular.

The committee's report also highlights the fact that countries with larger numbers of women in ministerial positions or in parliament tend to have lower levels of inequality and a high level of confidence in Government. We noted OECD research which found that increasing the number of female policymakers can result in a more balanced approach to policy design and service delivery.

The key recommendation of the committee's report was an equality budgeting statement. The report went to the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform requesting that he should produce such an equality statement as part of budget 2019 and that such a statement should be read out in conjunction with the budget document. The report recommended that the equality budgeting statement should set out broad and ambitious strategic gender equality goals. These strategic goals should be linked to the gender equality performance indicators, objectives and targets chosen by Departments for inclusion in the equality budgeting initiative. This would advance the integration of gender and, over time, other aspects of equality budgeting into the annual budget process. This recommendation was made in line with international best practice. For example, in Scotland an annual equality budget statement provides analysis that gives citizens useful information on assessing the equality impact of various budget measures.

In the recent budget the Minister referred to equality and gender budgeting in a risible way and in a rather limited paragraph contribution to his Budget Statement. The committee welcomes the Minister's commitment to make further progress to broaden the pilot project he mentioned to encompass other dimensions of equality. The committee also agrees that the establishment of the expert advisory group committed to by the Minister will provide further guidance in this area. However, the committee was disappointed to note that the Minister was not in a position to provide an equality budgeting statement as part of budget 2019 and that he has not responded to the committee's recommendations in this regard.

The committee calls on the Minister to commit to producing a full equality budget statement to be read alongside budget 2020. The introduction of an equality budget statement would represent a significant milestone for Ireland as it would be the first of its kind. It would place the issue of gender equality on a more prominent footing and would cement the Government’s commitment to enhancing equality in Irish society and improving budgetary reform and transparency.

The committee welcomes the introduction of an equality budgeting pilot programme in respect of voted expenditure and the corresponding performance of the public services. However, the committee does not believe that the pilot programme is sufficiently detailed or ambitious. The committee recommends that the Parliamentary Budget Office's analysis of the equality budgeting pilot programme and constructive feedback contained in its analysis should be used by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform to improve the pilot in the six Departments involved.

Another important point highlighted by the National Women's Council of Ireland and other gender equality experts is that the lack of disaggregated data is a key barrier to implementation of a gender budgeting process. Therefore, the committee recommends that the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform put a system in place to help the six pilot Departments identify and record gaps in available budget data. The committee also recommends that officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform appear before it in due course to discuss the results of its annual review of the equality budgeting pilot programme. This continued dialogue will ensure that there is continued progress to build on the work of the pilot programme.

The committee believes that successful equality budgeting involves bringing together gender equality expertise and expertise in public finance management. As a result, it recommends the establishment of a dedicated unit within each of the six Departments participating in the equality budgeting pilot programme.

The committee also received evidence from representatives of disability groups which emphasised the importance of assessing the equality impact of budget measures on different equality groups, including disabled persons. The committee hopes that the equality budgeting pilot can be extended, over time, to other aspects of equality budgeting.

In terms of developments since the publication of the committee's report in May, we received an excellent presentation from Dr. Claire Keane and Mr. Barra Roantree from the ESRI, who showed how budgets can be gender proofed in the future. The ESRI’s simulating welfare and income tax changes, SWITCH, model is widely used at budget time to examine the tax benefit policy changes that have happened and on whom they have impacted. However, the model only examines the impact on socio-economic groups. In a project funded by the Parliamentary Budget Office, the SWITCH model was recently updated. Improvements to the model mean that it can now be used to examine the impact of tax benefit policies according to gender. This updated model is a positive development and offers a very practical example of gender proofing in practice.

I will give a few examples of the SWITCH model being adapted to the budget in terms of gender equality. In the context of budgetary policy between 2008 and 2018, when it used the SWITCH model, the ESRI discovered that female lone parents lost out by more than other singles. When we consider the assumption that couples do not fully pool their incomes, we discover that working-age married women lost significantly more than working-age married men. Most income losses and most of the gender differences in income losses occurred during the austerity period, whereas fewer differences between the impact of budgetary policy on men and women were observed in the recovery period from 2013 to 2018. The committee, therefore, strongly supports the use of the updated SWITCH model to carry out ex-post analysis of budget 2019. Given that the updated model has been made available to Departments, we strongly believe that it should be used to carry out ex-ante analysis of key budget measures ahead of budget 2020. The Committee on Budgetary Oversight also recommends in its report to the Minister for Finance that, arising out of the Scottish experience, a report be commissioned into the role of women in the economy.

The committee is committed to its work in continuing to progress, promote and monitor the integration of gender budgeting and other gender equality measures into the annual budget process. The committee believes that by having these tools available to analyse the impact of different budget options in future, we can hopefully try to avoid policy decisions which have an adverse impact on women.

In the context of our recommendations concerning commissioning a report into the role of women in the economy, the Minister has not responded to that suggestion and he has not responded to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight report on gender budgeting, even though it was submitted to him in May. That is my report on behalf of the committee.

I am taking the debate on behalf of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe.

I welcome the opportunity to address the House on the Committee on Budgetary Oversight report on gender budgeting. In the past two years, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has been working to advance equality budgeting, and the committee’s report on gender budgeting contributes to progressing this important work.

Gender and equality budgeting has been a significant part of the committee’s work programme, and the report makes ten recommendations in this regard.

The ongoing work facilitated by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform regarding gender and equality budgeting continues to address many of the report’s recommendations and demonstrates the Government’s commitment to build on the equality budgeting initiative. The Government’s work regarding equality budgeting stems from a commitment in A Programme for a Partnership Government to develop "the process of budget and policy proofing as a means of advancing equality, reducing poverty and strengthening economic and social rights".

Equality budgeting involves providing greater information on the likely impacts of proposed and-or ongoing budgetary measures, which, in turn, enhance the potential to better facilitate the integration of equality concerns into the budgetary process and enhance the Government’s decision-making framework. While inequality is traditionally viewed through the prism of economic inequality alone, equality budgeting goes further in identifying contrasting outcomes in areas such as health and education, and how these outcomes differ across gender, age, ethnicity and those other characteristics which distinguish our society’s cohorts.

In 2017, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform announced details of the equality budgeting pilot programme for the 2018 budgetary cycle. This pilot, which is anchored in the existing performance budgeting framework, is currently under way. For this first cycle of equality budgeting, a number of diverse policy areas have been selected, with associated objectives and indicators published in the Revised Estimates Volume 2018 last December. Six streams were identified, with five of those focusing on gender. Progress towards achieving these targets was reported on in the public service performance report published in April.

The committee’s report recommends that the gender budgeting focus of the equality budgeting pilot be expanded to other equality dimensions. The Minister outlined in his Budget Statement last week the commitment to advancing equality budgeting and expanding the initiative to other dimensions of equality, including socio-economic inequality.

I recognise that getting a wide range of opinions is crucial to progress this work effectively. To support this expansion, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has established an equality budgeting expert advisory group, including representatives from the National Economic and Social Council, the Central Statistics Office, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the ESRI and academia, as well as the Departments of Finance, Justice and Equality and Employment Affairs and Social Protection. This group will provide expert knowledge and advice on the most effective way to advance equality budgeting policy and progress the initiative.

Strong stakeholder engagement remains central to the work regarding gender and equality budgeting. The expert advisory group has a significant role in this, as does the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform continues to liaise closely with key stakeholders.

In developing Irish equality budgeting policy we also looked at international best practice. A number of countries have begun to develop frameworks in this area. The Austrian, Scottish, Icelandic and Canadian models, among others, were examined. Although many of these approaches are relatively new, it is useful to see the methodology and common themes that have been adopted.

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is currently working closely with a number of line Departments to identify new measures for the 2019 phase of equality budgeting. As I said earlier, we are building on the gender dimension and expanding to other areas, including socio-economic inequality.

This is in parallel to other more long-term work. As outlined in the committee’s report, there is a need systematically to identify and record relevant data gaps. The ongoing work of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in areas such as performance budgeting and the spending review seeks to address the issue of gaps in relation to data on the outputs and outcomes of public expenditure.

Awareness and implementation of equality budgeting is also key in order to refine and improve the selected indicators as outlined in the committee’s report. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform continues to work closely with line Departments and will undertake awareness-raising measures to maximise the application and impact of equality budgeting policy.

There are a number of established practices and procedures in place in Ireland that facilitate the consideration of likely equality impacts on proposed and-or ongoing budgetary processes and measures. These include distributional analysis where the Departments of Finance and Employment Affairs and Social Protection carry out an ex post impact assessment of the main tax and social welfare measures introduced in any budget. The development of a social impact assessment, SIA, framework has taken place, which is designed to focus on policy areas that cannot easily be incorporated into the existing SWITCH model, specifically the impacts of public expenditure on recipient households. The framework allows evaluators assess how changes in public expenditure policy can impact on household incomes and living standards. Seven papers have been published under the SIA series to date, five of which were published on budget day, including on female labour force participation and targeted childcare supports.

The introduction of equality budgeting has highlighted many issues and identified many areas which need further work. In this regard, and in line with the recommendations in the report, I look forward to working with the committee in further developing gender and equality budgeting.

I thank Deputy Lahart for presenting the report. In respect of his comments on the issues that need to be drawn to the attention of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, I commit to doing that as well.

As a member of the-----

Are Deputies Broughan and Burton sharing time?

I am not aware.

No. I did indicate.

Deputy Broughan's name was in first. I do not mind if-----

In terms of the Labour Party I thought I was up next.

Deputy Broughan is a member of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight.

There is no particular order for this debate.

It is first come, first served. Those are the rules.

I was actually here awaiting the debate before Deputy Broughan was here.

I gave in my name at the start of the Topical Issue debate.

It is not the same order as the normal debates.

At least a woman will get in eventually.

We are here because we are interested.

As a member of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight I am delighted to strongly endorse this important report, which was launched on 30 May this year. Gender and equality budgeting have been major priorities for our work. I was of course disappointed that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, did not present a gender budgeting report alongside budget 2019 on 9 October last, as is recommended in the report before us.

I am grateful to the clerk of the committee, Mr. Ronan Murphy, our policy adviser and economist, Ms Catherine McCarthy, and our administrative officer, Ms Miriam Plunkett, for all their work in bringing this important report before us. Thanks are also due to Ms Annette Connolly, director, and her staff in the Parliamentary Budget Office and finally, of course, to the Chairman of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, Deputy Colm Brophy and all my colleagues on the committee.

We were delighted to have such a range of distinguished stakeholders present to the committee on gender and equality budgeting. We met with the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the financial scrutiny unit of the Scottish Parliament, the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Disability Federation of Ireland, and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. We also had representation from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and, of course, the Parliamentary Budget Office. The committee’s policy adviser, Ms Catherine McCarthy, travelled to Germany to attend a conference by the European Institute for Gender Equality on gender budgeting and we also examined experiences of the Basque country and Austria. Senator Alice Mary Higgins played an important role in initiating the work which led to this report. I recall a very early meeting that Senator Higgins arranged with Scottish parliamentary colleagues, which Deputy Boyd Barrett and I also attended.

Diane Elson in her 2001 paper, "Strengthening Economic and Financial Governance through Gender Budgeting", defines gender budgeting as trying to "analyse any form of public expenditure or methods of raising public money from a gender perspective, identifying the implications and impacts for women and girls as compared to men and boys." Professor Elson also notes that the practical steps needed to gender-proof budgets include assessing what impact any fiscal measure has on gender equality and determining whether it reduces, increases or leaves gender equality unchanged.

Austria is one of just three countries worldwide that has enshrined the concept of gender budgeting into the constitution. The nation, states and communes of Austria have to assess each chapter of their budgets on a gender equality outcome basis. Of course, the Austrian budget committee carries out ex ante scrutiny of gender outcomes on each proposed budget and its court of audit, which is like our Committee of Public Accounts, does the ex post assessment.

As we learned at the meeting organised by Senator Higgins and subsequently from the Scottish financial scrutiny unit, Scotland’s budgets since 2009 have been accompanied by an equality budget statement and the Scottish Government is working on a gender index for Scotland. In 2014, the Scottish Government also commissioned the Sawer review which sets out an action plan to address the inequalities facing women in Scotland.

In our report on gender budgeting, the committee notes the initiative of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in rolling out a pilot programme to progress equality budgeting in Ireland. The programme, of course, involved six Departments, namely Transport, Tourism and Sport; Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Children and Youth Affairs; Education and Skills; Health; and Business, Enterprise and Innovation. Gender equality objectives and indicators from those Departments have been also published in the revised Estimates volume for 2018. The committee report notes the launch of the pilot programme but many constituents feel the programme could have been much more far-reaching and ambitious to speed up the attainment of full gender equality in national budgets and in the workforce.

The budgetary oversight committee rightly draws attention to lacunae and gaps in the pilot which were researched and highlighted to us by both the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the Parliamentary Budget Office. Our report emphasises that metrics in the programme were not clearly linked to expenditure. That is a key point as such a link is needed for this kind of programme. The key high-level metrics for large financial allocations are not linked to the activities and expenditure of each Department in question. Clearly, as the report concludes, the formatting and presentation of pilot metrics and targets could be significantly improved. It is deplorable that a key recommendation of the National Women's Council of Ireland, the publication of an equality budget statement to sit alongside the Budget Statement itself - and the reading of such a statement by the Minister - was not accepted or acted on by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, for budget 2019. I believe we should also adopt the recommendation of the National Women's Council of Ireland that gender budgeting be placed on a statutory basis, perhaps indeed underpinned by a constitutional amendment.

The analysis in our committee report reflects on the challenges and difficulties presented by a gender budgeting process. In particular, the collection of sex-disaggregated data, as begun, for example, by Israel in 2008, is critical to the successful roll-out of gender budgeting for the future. The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s request to Departments involved in the pilot programme to identify and log where data deficiencies exist is an important first step but the committee report rightly asks for much more to be done in this regard.

When the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, engaged with the committee, I also asked him if the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform would utilise the ESRI SWITCH model to invigilate the gender impact of budgetary measures in budget 2019. Regrettably, he replied that this was not possible for budget 2019. However, I commend the initiative of the Parliamentary Budget Office in commissioning the ESRI to examine the expansion of the capacity of the SWITCH model to include effective scrutiny of the gender impact of budgetary measures in Ireland. I note that the ESRI informed the committee that a pilot project ESRI carried out for the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in 2014 looked at the gender impact of tax and benefit changes and showed how the SWITCH model could be extended to provide a gender impact assessment. The ESRI reported that working-age, lone parents who are predominantly female are significantly more exposed to changes in tax policy and benefits than other cohorts. Dr. Claire Keane and Mr. Barra Roantree of the ESRI presented to the committee last month and gave us a valuable insight into the work of the ESRI’s tax-benefit SWITCH model. They showed how gender-based divisions of work and caring roles result in differences in incomes and benefits received and how differences in work and PRSI contribution histories can also deeply affect welfare payment rates and whether an individual even qualifies for a benefit in the first place.

The committee report also highlights the Scottish Government’s equality and budgetary advisory group and the Austrian system of performance budgeting, which allows priorities such as gender equality budgeting to be included. Briefing paper No. 4 of the Parliamentary Budget Office, "The Gender and Equality Budgeting Pilot in the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2018", has been also of great assistance to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. The Parliamentary Budget Office report shows that only just over €1.8 million in total was spent on the six departmental programmes and that "there is scope for building upon and enhancing the metrics and indicators employed in the pilot".

The Parliamentary Budget Office is also right to stress that gender budgeting should address specific and identifiable goals and that further development of this pilot is, of course, necessary. Massive development of the pilot is required. The Parliamentary Budget Office also stressed that high-level metrics provided within the pilots are not clearly linked to specific allocations at subhead level and that pilot goal, metrics and indicators are difficult to distinguish from pre-existing programme metrics. If one looks at the programmes, one can see that is the case.

Of course, the pilot programme includes laudable aims including increasing the number of female apprentices, increasing female participation at all levels of sport, achieving gender balance in scientific research teams, improved participation by women in the film industry and the media, and much more affordable childcare.

The critique of the Parliamentary Budget Office and our committee report clearly show, however, how much more rigorous analysis is needed for much more ambitious gender equality programmes in all Departments.

The Committee on Budgetary Oversight report quotes from the IMF that "the Fund has recognized in recent years that one cannot separate the issues of economic growth and stability on the one hand and equality on the other". The report also correctly quotes the study of the European Institute for Gender Equality which found in 2017 that greater gender equality across the EU could result in 10.5 million additional jobs by 2050 and an increase in GDP per capita of almost 10% by 2050, and that it could be a major economic instrument to address some of the demographic challenges facing Europe. The OECD Deputy Secretary General, Ms Mari Kiviniemi, also quoted an OECD estimate that a 50% reduction in the gender gap in labour market participation would lead to a 6% increase in GDP by 2030. To put it more simply, in the words of the song by Bobbie McGee, "Bread and Roses", "the rising of the women means the rising of the race". I am sure the Acting Chairman knows that song.

He probably sang it many times as he went marching and demonstrating.

Waving the red flag.

With those caveats, I am delighted to support the recommendations of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. I again thank all those who were involved in the report's production and who advised us so well. The benefits of gender budgeting are a sine qua non for a highly productive, happy and egalitarian society.

In looking at this report, which I think is the first of its kind to be presented to the Dáil, I am conscious that, so far, I am the only woman who has spoken. In terms of gender organisation of the Dáil, many of my women colleagues have young children and probably have a better place to be late on a Thursday evening than be here in the Dáil to speak. Had there been some more gender sensitivity with the time chosen, it might have been possible for many more of our valued women colleagues in the Dáil to contribute to this debate and perhaps bring some flavour of personal knowledge to the debate. The issue is quite personal to many women and potentially very important.

I welcome the debate. That a discussion on an element of gender equality has taken place here is a step forward in the year of the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote. Countess Markievicz said she devoted her life to trying to ensure that women got freedom and equality, particularly and obviously in Ireland. She also joined causes with women throughout the world. It is important for us to use the knowledge and learning gained by women around the world to pursue a broad objective of essentially creating a more inclusive society, which includes women as equals in what the society does and as equals in what Parliament proposes and disposes.

The three previous speakers concentrated mainly on a technical discussion of gender budgeting. Some of the language is challenging enough to understand. It is technical language. I would like us to use language that is available to all women and men regardless of their education levels.

My professional background is in accounting. I start with a basic accounting concept about accounts: what should accounts do? A set of accounts or accounting reports should seek to give a true and fair view of what has happened, what the resources are used for, and in terms of current accounting, what the outcomes have been and whether those outcomes have been fair. True and fair should be the objectives of gender budgeting. It would tell us how resources are disbursed in terms of fairness between men, women and children and between different groups in society. For example, people may need additional support from the State because they have a disability, whether they are men or women. In economic and ethical terms, it is quite a useful concept to adopt as a fresh way of looking at budgetary arithmetic.

Budget 2019 contained a few standout things that indicated that gender budgeting did not get significant consideration. For the third year in a row there has been no increase in child benefit. As we know, child benefit is one of the social welfare payments which is paid directly to the caring parent, usually the mother. For the third year in a row in this period of restoration following a very severe collapse of the economy, nothing has been done by either of the two big parties for women who, while not the only caregivers, are very often the principal caregivers for children in a family. Child benefit is a very important payment, but the Government saw fit not to go near it.

The domiciliary care allowance is paid usually to the caring parent in the case of a child who is assessed as having special needs. For the third year in a row, nothing was done with that very important payment. As Dr. Keane of the ESRI told the Committee on Budgetary Oversight some time ago, carers are largely women. In about 70% of families in receipt of the domiciliary care allowance, which is a significant proportion, one of the parents, usually the mother, goes on to be a full-time carer supported by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. These are just small things, and I would have liked to have seen gender analysis of those aspects of the budget.

Other things stand out in our experience of society. Multiple reports on housing by Government and NGOs show that many families experiencing homelessness comprise children with one parent caring on their own, with most of those families headed by women. This is a very significant group experiencing serious difficulties with homelessness.

Travellers, especially Traveller women and children, often experience very serious issues with income adequacy, access to education, employment and training. If we were building the kind of true and fair view we would try to give of society, these are some of the areas that might be considered for inclusion in a gender budgeting statement. I regret that the Minister, perhaps for technical reasons, could not find the time to include that in the budget.

My colleague, Senator Bacik, has brought a Bill through the Seanad on the gender pay gap. That is very important legislation.

When that gender pay gap Bill comes before the Dáil, I hope Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the other parties and Independents who are represented here will find it possible to address the gender pay gap and we can agree to go forward on a coherent basis.

With regard to the various studies presented to the committee, in the time I have left I want to say that while the ESRI paper was very good, the SWITCH model is very old. When I was Minister for Social Protection, a lot of money was given to the ESRI to improve the model but it is still not good enough to present us with the sufficiently detailed picture that we want in terms of people accepting the gender budgeting report. Some consideration will have to be given by the Minister for Finance to funding the ESRI to improve the SWITCH model so the data examination that is referenced in a whole series of papers as being essential to good quality gender budgeting can be carried out because it cannot be currently. I can observe, as can everybody else here, when there are more men than women in a room, as there are here now. I can observe, when a delegation comes in from the Department of Finance, that they are all male. This tells me something about the role of women in this country and in this Parliament. The SWITCH model is very important. I ask the Minister of State to tell the senior Minister that it is important there is investment in this because it will yield good results.

There are very simple examples around gender-type investments. For example, do we want to lower speeds in estates so women with small children in buggies can safely let the children out to play and the risk of accident is reduced?

That is not only very important to families but it has a huge value to society. In monetary terms, we do not tend to try to measure this in our budgeting, although it is very important.

Whether a person is disabled or pushing a buggy, dished pavements represent a very important civic amenity that helps the person to be able to move around the community.

While I welcome the report, we could expand our imaginations, as has been done in many other countries, and I particularly reference Austria-----

-----to examine gender budgeting and build on what has been done here, which is quite good.

Thank you, Deputy. We have several more speakers.

We could expand on it to give us a much better picture of the position of women in Irish society.

I commend the Committee on Budgetary Oversight secretariat and the Parliamentary Budget Office for their great work on all of this and the report that was produced in May, in particular the work they have done in trying to advance the cause of equality budgeting and gender budgeting. I commend the Chairman and my fellow committee members for their work. I thank all of the people who contributed or who came in to the committee, such as the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Wheelchair Association of Ireland and the ESRI, and there are others I cannot remember, unfortunately.

This is a hugely important issue. I agree with Deputy Burton that some of it is quite technical, necessarily so when it comes down to trying to disaggregate information to see how budgets and budgetary allocations impact on women, on different genders, on different groups, such as people with disability, ethnic groups, Travellers, or on any sector of society, given there are obviously different social and economic groups in society. Why is it important to do that? Probably the best case for why we need to do it was set out in the book, The Spirit Level, written a number of years ago, where the authors gathered a lot of evidence to show that societies where there is greater equality do better at every single level imaginable. Societies where there are greater levels of equality have better community and social relations, better mental health, better physical health, longer life expectancy, less obesity, less violence, less imprisonment and better economic growth. Every indicator suggests that societies that are more equal do better. That is why it is important.

For many reasons, I find the budgets I have had to interact with over-----


I hope the private conversations can end now. It is a bit outrageous, to be honest.

This is not acceptable. We are here for the debate. If Deputy Burton does not want to show a bit of respect, it is regrettable.

Sorry, Acting Chairman. Deputy Burton is giving out about the fact that it is 8.15 p.m. Then she shows disrespect to Deputy Boyd Barrett and to the House.

We will proceed. Deputy Boyd Barrett, without interruption.

We are still here.

I know. I ask Deputy Boyd Barrett to continue.

I thank the Minister of State. I appreciate that. Fair play to him. What we just saw was extremely disrespectful.

Equality is good for our society. Obviously, gender equality is critical in so far as 50% of the world's population suffer systematic discrimination and oppression and are disproportionately impacted by poverty, war and all of the injustices and inequalities that exist in our world, given these disproportionately impact on women. If women do not have equality, our entire society suffers. It is imperative for the good of all that we have real equality for women, as part of a fight for greater equality in society generally, because we will live in a better world and have a better future if we achieve that.

The way budgeting has been done to date is frustrating because it does not seem to have any particular objective at all, and it is only with this discussion that we are beginning to address that. For example, I do not know, going into any budget, what exactly the point is of the budget. There does not seem to be any particular point other than to play by certain fiscal rules or to balance books just for the sake of it, or for a thing called economic growth, the benefits of which are a little difficult to ascertain when we live in a country which has the highest levels of economic growth in Europe, yet has a massive housing crisis, a massive health crisis, cannot deal with climate change and has an education system in serious trouble, as our universities tumble down the international rankings and we have the most overcrowded classrooms in the Western world. It makes one wonder what exactly is the connection between the Moses and prophets of economic growth and the actual quality of life of our citizens. Equality budgeting focuses on that and says there should be a point to a budget, and that point should be to have a better society, which means a more equal society, and to address inequalities. One of the biggest inequalities of them all is gender inequality, so it is critical we go down this road. Senator Alice-Mary Higgins has been commended and I should add my voice to that commendation for her efforts in bringing this issue forward.

What if we had these kinds of impact assessments on the consequences of gender inequality and other forms of inequality in our society over the last ten years?

I do not know if things would have been different, but we certainly would have had greater evidence to argue against some of what happened. It is deeply ironic that the Deputy who has just left was the Minister for Social Protection when precisely the most savage attacks on women in Irish society took place, in particular in the 2012 budget. This is from the ESRI, not just us. We said it at the time the attacks were launched, in particular the attacks on single parents with the cuts to child benefit, the income disregard for single mothers, rent allowance, with disastrous consequences, and the capital housing budgets. One can go through the list. There were cuts to jobseeker's allowance for young people under 26 years of age. All of this happened in 2012. The ESRI has confirmed with the application of the newly adapted SWITCH model, which takes into account gender impacts, that single mothers suffered the worst while working mothers in couples with children were hit the second worst. These savage attacks had a huge impact on our society generally, increasing poverty and deprivation, and the worst victims were single parents and mothers generally. Where is some acknowledgement of the damage that was done? There might have been an argument about it having to be done, which I would not accept, but at least some acknowledgement of the damage done to some of the most vulnerable women by those who implemented those attacks at the time would be welcome.

It is disappointing that the Government did not take on the recommendation for a gender impact statement in the budget. We need to have that. It is something that can be done in a simplified way. This is where we have to think about it. We must consider how to make it simple and digestible for people to understand the impacts on different groups. To some extent, it is already done at the back of the budget book where examples are given of the social and economic impact of different budgetary measures. For example, one sees the impact on a public sector worker earning the average industrial wage. The example is also given of the impact on a self-employed person in the private sector who earns a particular income. We need to have various metrics covering the different impacts of certain budgetary measures and to put those together in a digestible form to allow people to understand the effects on different groups, including women, about whom we are speaking today, but also persons with disabilities who constitute another group on whom the impact of budgetary measures is something we desperately need to quantify. People with disabilities are another group who suffered quite savagely as a result of the austerity cuts of the past seven or eight years.

I conclude on that and within my time as the Acting Chairman, Deputy Durkan, will be glad to know. I congratulate those who produced the report. I hope the Government is taking this stuff on board and will take it seriously. It will benefit all of us. It will benefit women and groups who suffer inequality and oppression. It will benefit our entire society and make for a better future.

By way of introduction to the debate and notwithstanding the fact that many people say self praise is no praise, I note as a relatively new member of the House and as the newest member of the Budgetary Oversight Committee how commendable are its staff and members in respect of the work they do. The potential of the committee to look at budgetary and legislative suggestions and ideas excites me a great deal. I encourage Members to put forward such suggestions and ideas to the committee.

The report on gender budgeting is to be commended. The late and great Kofi Annan once said:

Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.

Supporting the report on gender budgeting before the House this evening would be a step towards building a foundation block or cornerstone for the Oireachtas into the future. It would ensure that the good governance referred to by Kofi Annan would happen. Members of the Oireachtas must have an awareness and full understanding of the potential positive and negative impacts of budgetary measures on both females and males. While some good work has been done and there have been some achievements, the House and the Government must implement the real, realisable and concrete proposals outlined in the committee's report on gender budgeting. The committee believes that an equality budget statement, as referenced by Deputy Lahart, must be read by the Minister for Finance in conjunction with his Budget Statement. That is paramount to the gender budgeting process. Such a statement must set out the broad and ambitious strategic equality indicators. The committee's report further recommends that the research and analysis carried out by the parliamentary oversight office should be heeded and acted on by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. The report also recommends that the six Departments which piloted the initial programme should be allowed to further analyse their operations in order to enhance the work carried out to date.

Borrowing the slogan "Much done and more to do", it is true that if gender budgets were succeeding in the House, issues of gender inequality would not be raised so continuously here. Issues like affordable child care would have been long addressed and would not have led to women leaving the labour force due to lack of adequate and affordable child-care services. If we were succeeding, the clear gender imbalance in appointments to State boards would not still exist. Participation and investment in female sport would not be the poor relation. The lack of focus until recently on STEM projects in education for girls would, I trust, have demonstrated the lack of parity of esteem for that sex when it comes to brain power in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. As a former teacher, the imbalance in the number of male and female teachers, in particular at primary school level, worries me as I believe children, especially younger children, require the involvement of both sexes. While that might not appear to be a gender-equality issue, it needs to be addressed as part of this process.

I do not want to rabbit on about all of the issues, but they are not exhaustive. Many Members have referred this evening to the identification of anomalies in the tax system, social welfare and pension entitlements. The PRSI system, for instance, has treated women unfairly and been regrettable, insensitive and lacking in budget proofing. Recognition of the need for gender budgeting would go a long way towards dealing with this unfair discrimination and these unfair disadvantages. The report recommends bringing together two sets of knowledge and expertise, namely gender equality expertise and public finance management, which would be a positive step. I draw the attention of the House to the enshrining of gender budgeting in Austria's constitution.

If initiated in this country, this would bring real accountability to good gender equality governance.

I highlight to the Dáil a number of challenges in this report, for example, the lack of data broken down by gender, the need for cultural changes, both by us as politicians and equally by our civil servants, also recognising, most importantly, that the current budget process is not gender neutral.

Like others on the committee, I commend its Chairman, Deputy Brophy, and its Vice Chairman beside me, Deputy Lahart, Miriam Plunkett, Catherine McCarthy, the staff of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Irish Wheelchair Association, the Disability Federation of Ireland, not to mention the ESRI, who, together with much advice from other budgetary oversight committees on the issue, went way beyond the call of duty. I support this report and, like others, commend it to the House.

I acknowledge the presence of the Deputies who stayed for the duration of the debate. No one in the House should have to apologise for being male or female. It is regrettable that when the issue of gender is discussed, whether in this forum or elsewhere, we almost drift into having to apologise for being male rather than advocating, which is our role, for the position of men and women, women and men. I do not view myself as a Deputy for men or as a male Deputy. I am a Deputy and I take my responsibilities in this regard very seriously, as I am sure do the other Deputies.

I know Deputy Burton is not present now, but reference was made a while ago to the timing of the debate, which is regrettable because it was certainly worthy of a greater level of scrutiny, consideration and debate in the House. Deputy Burton said many female Deputies are probably at home with their families. That is fine, but the rest of us have families too, and credit must go to those of us who have been here this evening to provide our input into this.

Deputy Burton referred to the budget of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. It is worth putting on the record that the weekly rate payable to families in receipt of social welfare payments for a qualified child has increased by €2.20 per week for children under 12 and by €5.20 per week for children aged 12 and over. There will also be a €20 increase to the income disregard for one-parent families on the jobseeker's transitional payment, which was not referred to. The back to school clothing and footwear allowance is being increased by €25 per child, up to €150 for those aged four to 11 and €275 for those aged 12 to 22. There is also an allocation of €146 million for emergency accommodation. In addition, there is in excess of €1.5 billion in the 2019 budget for the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, and the introduction of the affordable childcare scheme continues. In addition, the income thresholds and multiple child deduction under the new scheme are to be adjusted to approve supports for additional parents who qualify. It is not fair, therefore, to say that the budget that has been introduced under confidence and supply does not have a family element to it or that it does not have regard to the importance and centrality of children in society. That is not the case.

I compliment Deputy Lahart, in his role as Vice Chairman, on the report. I know the Chairman is not here but I congratulate both Deputies for their level of engagement. It is fair to say that in recent years there have been a number of reforms led by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform in the first instance, not only in the area of budgetary layout and engagement with the committee but in a great many other areas. We are on target to have the number of women on our State boards at around the 40% mark. Many of these elements of reform are very positive and I think they are improving the position vis-à-vis gender equality. While Deputies Broughan and Boyd Barrett may differ with the Government on an awful lot of our economic philosophy, I agree with them that there is no difference between all our wishes that we might see a greater level of engagement with the committee in terms of oversight, scrutiny and pre-budgetary appraisal. We must also ensure we are able as a Government and an Oireachtas to reach out to the greatest number of people we can, male and female, through our expenditure, our tax regime and our governance.

I entirely agree with some of the points Deputy Breathnach made about education. I was a primary school teacher myself and I know that many of my former contemporaries are female, but there are a growing number of males. A continual impetus needs to be placed on this to ensure a greater number of younger men go into that profession. In a previous Department I suggested and attempted to introduce a mechanism to improve the position of women in sport. This has not advanced, which is very regrettable because we need to see a greater number of leadership roles for women, not just in politics but in areas into which Government expenditure reaches. This is not the case at present. An opportunity was missed but it continues to exist.

As for the overall context of the recommendations of the report, in the brief amount of time I have left I would like, on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, to comment on some of them, such as an equality budgeting statement alongside the budget statement, to which all speakers referred. The approach taken to the equality budget is anchored in the existing performance budgeting and is part of a whole-year budgetary approach. It is not just a matter, therefore, of the day itself. I know there is a lot of focus on the day itself, even though the budget is nowadays out nearly three or four weeks in advance in many cases. Many elements that are crucial to good equality or gender budgeting are equally good for budgeting itself and policy formulation as a whole. This is the case for clear, multidimensional budgetary impact analysis and for evaluation frameworks that feed directly into the policy and budget cycle. I think it was Deputy Boyd Barrett who said we are able to produce tables showing how the budget impacts people in different cohorts and economic strata. As we get more and more information from the Departments of Children and Youth Affairs, Employment Affairs and Social Protection, and Education and Skills, and as the committee continues its work, we will organically see the reach of the budget into what it is we want to try to achieve, which is to ensure that the boat is lifted for males and females.

The reporting of relevant targets and indicators aims to enhance the transparency surrounding the progress made through achieving equality objectives. The work on equality budgeting will continue to complement existing structures which consider the impacts of budgetary measures such as the SWITCH model and social impact assessments. Work is also under way to address the data issues. A representative from the Central Statistics Office sits on the advisory group and work has begun to map priorities from strategies such as the national strategy for women and girls onto gender equality and budgeting.

The Department officials have taken note of the issues that have been raised. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, is very anxious to continue the dialogue with the members of the committee. I compliment the committee on the work it has done on this element and, more broadly, on the production of the budget. I hope we move away from the set-piece day to having a greater level of input from Members of the Oireachtas, who ultimately have responsibility for voting through the budget under its different headings.

I will finish where I started. It is noteworthy that four of the Deputies who spoke are still here. None of us should have to apologise for being male, no more than anyone should have to apologise for being female.

I think an awful lot of progress is being made. The work the committee has done in that regard is very welcome. On behalf of the Government, I thank the committee for the work it has done. I look forward to its continued engagement in the coming months.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. I thank my colleagues on the Committee on Budgetary Oversight for their contributions. I would like to emphasise a few of the points that have been made. I ask the Minister of State to remind the Minister that he has not responded to the committee's report. The committee looks forward to his response and to that of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

I note what the Minister of State said about the organic nature of budgeting when he was responding to what I said in my opening remarks about the Committee on Budgetary Oversight's disappointment regarding the Minister's failure to include an equality budgeting statement in his Budget Statement. The Minister has committed to doing this in 2020. The Minister of State spoke about the amount of work that is going on in the background as part of the efforts to deal with gender budgeting issues within each Department. I suggest that this would have made it even more incumbent on the Minister to include a more comprehensive gender budgeting statement in the budget 2019 presentation, even as a gesture. The Minister has not responded to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight on this matter.

I would like to respond to Deputy Burton's remark about "technical language". I do not want to labour the issue. My colleagues have made the point. As I stated earlier, when Deputy Burton was serving as a female Minister for Social Protection in 2012, she, either wittingly or unwittingly, introduced measures in pensions legislation that were particularly gender-biased and had a disproportionately significant penalising effect on women than on men, although some men were penalised by the measures in question.

I call on the Minister to initiate a report into the economic role of women in Irish society, as recommended by the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. It is really important for the committee's message in this regard to be delivered. We have garnered some experience from the Scottish Parliament in this area.

As this is our first opportunity to debate the Committee on Budgetary Oversight's report with the Minister of State, I would like to raise a few general issues with him. My colleagues on the committee would not forgive me if I failed to do so. I am not talking about individual measures in the budget. One of the criticisms levelled at politicians and office holders during and after the economic crash was that advices from eminent organisations and individuals were not heeded in advance of the crash, or certainly in the lead-up to the height of the crash. Between April and September, various eminent witnesses came before the committee. The chairman of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council appeared on a number of occasions. We heard from stakeholders from the ESRI and many other bodies. It was clear as long ago as April that certain key budgetary themes were emerging, including Ireland's vulnerability in the area of corporation tax, the importance of taking some steps in the area of carbon tax because of our climate change obligations - the equalisation of diesel and petrol measures was one such step - and the need to consider Brexit budget measures. All of those themes were fudged in the budget. They were not dealt with in any kind of significant way. Some of them, including carbon tax measures, were put off for another year. These issues were highlighted again and again at meetings of the committee.

I have referred to Ireland's vulnerability in the area of corporation tax. It is important that we do not continue to depend on this tax. We must remember the consequences of our over-dependence on it previously. Significant steps were not taken in respect of this tax. Equally, the Minister and the Government have not come back to the committee with concrete proposals for how the rainy-day fund will be used. Will it be used as a counter-cyclical tool, as a contingency fund or as an economic buffer?

We have been given some indication that the Minister for Finance will meet the Minister for Health three or four times a year to try to keep tabs on the health budget, but aside from that the overrun in that budget has not been mentioned. The committee has not received details of, or information on, any particular structure to be used by the Minister or the Department as part of their efforts to control spending in the Department of Health. Successive Ministers for Health have failed to control health spending over a period of 20 years.

The corporation tax windfall in advance of budget 2019 is particularly important. I have not run my concerns in this regard by the members of the committee, but I know they will share them. The Minister was good enough to come before us on a number of occasions. The corporation tax windfall in advance of budget 2019 was entirely predictable because it arose from a technical accounting change. We know that such a windfall will not occur again. The committee is concerned that the discovery of this windfall at such a late hour in the budgetary cycle meant that the committee did not have an opportunity to scrutinise the windfall figures or interrogate the manner in which the windfall will be utilised on behalf of society or the economy.

I would not be forgiven if I had not made these supplementary points now that the opportunity has arisen. The Minister of State might inform the Minister and his officials that we do not intend to let any of these issues go between now and Christmas. We are very exercised about them. Each of them is very important. There is no point in having a committee such as ours, which meets regularly up to a week or a fortnight before the budget, if it cannot make any input or engage in any oversight when approximately €1 billion is discovered the night before the budget.

The Committee on Budgetary Oversight is committed to its work and will continue to make progress with, promote and monitor the integration of gender-budgeting and other gender equality measures into the annual budgetary process. The committee hopes that by having the tools available to analyse the impact of various budgetary options in the future, it can try to avoid policy decisions which have an adverse impact on women and other people on the margins of society.

Question put and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 8.50 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 23 October 2018.