A GBA+ case for understanding the impact of COVID-19

Agree. Starts, of course, with better and more comprehensive data:

In the COVID-19 era, Canada needs to better understand the relationship between identity and health. To do that, we need to use intersectional analysis, the study of the way identity categories such as gender, race and ability interconnect to create discriminatory systems that impact individuals in different ways. Fortunately, we have a policy tool in our policy toolbox for precisely this purpose, and it can and should be deployed by provincial ministries of health across this country: Gender-Based Analysis plus (or GBA+). Our federal government has been using GBA+ for years across many departments, though it is not mandatory for all federal departments. But it is in use at the Privy Council Office, Finance, the Department of National Defence and Health Canada. There is therefore a wealth of Canadian policy experience with this tool, and we need GBA+ now more than ever. 

The GBA+ tool was developed by the federal Department of Women and Gender Equality (WAGE), formerly Status of Women Canada. It is an approach to understanding sex and gender alongside other identity factors such as race, ability and age, to assess how various groups experience policies, programs and initiatives. The aim of GBA+ is the creation of equitable policies, programs and initiatives — equitable from inception to execution. Awareness of the differential impacts that government policies and actions have on different identity groups is central to that goal.

There are no hard and fast rules on how GBA+ should be done; in fact, it is perhaps best thought of as a competency rather than a methodology. In other words, there is no set formula to achieve equity in all situations; rather, progressing toward equitable change requires the continued cultivation of knowledge about various groups, the challenges they face and potential avenues for change. Nevertheless, GBA+ consistently relies on the use of disaggregated data, in addition to other forms of research, to gain insights into policy. Reliable data are essential to effect change, especially with identity-based issues. Showing patterns of discrimination is more compelling than anecdotal accounts in documenting a need for policy change. GBA+ also requires the monitoring and evaluation of the effects of policies on Canadians. It is not enough to enact change; change must be equitable.

Properly applied to the government’s COVID-19 response, GBA+ would have directed policy-makers to draw on fine-grained differentiated data to evaluate equity considerations. In asking whether policies are equitable, GBA+ analysts ask whether policy outcomes track a range of identity factors, including race, ethnicity and socio-economic background. Thus, if GBA+ had been applied to provinces’ public health response to COVID-19 from the start, requisite data would have been collected from the outset. These data, as the trickle of international evidence is making increasingly apparent, are key to targeting necessary medical supplies, policies and programs to those most affected, and hence helping to curb the spread of the virus.

GBA+ directs policy-makers to include identity-based considerations in the formulation, deployment and evaluation of their policies. Of course, GBA+ is not perfect: critics sometimes charge that it is too abstract, offering little actionable guidance to policy-makers. While its goals may be commendable, it is not always readily apparent how GBA+ should influence decisions within a specific portfolio or policy. This is why proponents of GBA+ argue it is a competency rather than a methodology. Policy-makers need to develop the ability and experience needed to make equitable decisions. Whether or not this response satisfies critics, it is true that GBA+ has clear implications in the context of COVID-19. If it had been employed in the appropriate offices before the pandemic, it would have helped policy-makers see and act upon considerations of identity in the making of health policy, including in their collection of data. Even at this later stage, the deployment of GBA+ would significantly improve our understanding of the virus and our response to it.

Several Western countries have discovered that factors linked to social determinants of health, most notably race, ethnicity and socio-economic status, are closely related to infection, hospitalization and death rates In Canada, however, we are flying blind, as COVID-19 data collection has been limited so far to age and sex.

Our obliviousness to the potential relationship between race, ethnicity and socio-economic status and infection, hospitalization and death rates will negatively impact our ability to control the spread of the virus in the short term and impair our understanding of how this virus impacts societies’ well-being in the long term. In response to criticism about this gap in data collection, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, for example, has said that statistics based on race aren’t collected in Canada unless certain groups are found to have risk factors.

Frankly, this position just does not align with mounting international evidence that race, ethnicity and socio-economic status have an impact on health outcomes related to COVID-19. A recent study released by a United Kingdom think tank, the Institute for Fiscal Studies, finds that minority groups are overrepresented in hospitalizations and deaths from the virus, with Black Britons nearly twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as the white British majority. Similar patterns have emerged in the United States, where the Centers for Disease Control confirmed that current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups. New York City, for example, has recorded a disproportionate death rate among African-Americans (33.2 percent) and Hispanics (28.2 percent), and a Washington Post analysis shows that American counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority

There is further reason to apply a GBA+ lens to race, ethnicity and socio-economic data of those infected, hospitalized or succumbing to COVID-19. Academic studies have noted that racial discrimination, specifically when directed against Canada’s Black and Indigenous people, may itself be a determinant of chronic diseases and their underlying risk factors. Clearly, racial and ethnic inequalities in health outcomes are found throughout Canada, but the severity of these inequalities varies across racial and ethnic groups, further illustrating the importance of intersectional analysis. Moreover, academic evidence notes that a failure to distinguish between Canadian-born visible minorities and visible minorities who are immigrants to Canada is a key gap in Canadian health data of racialized individuals. This further indicates the importance of taking intersectionality into account when collecting health data.

When policy-makers truly embrace GBA+ as a lens for equitable policy-making, we can then better assess the toll of the pandemic. Only with an intersectional lens on the impact of COVID-19 on society will we see the differentiated impact of this virus on individuals and communities. Thus far, we have been flying blind, but it may not be too late to make a course correction in our COVID-19 policies.

Source: A GBA+ case for understanding the impact of COVID-19

Why are we so afraid of gender-based analysis?

Interesting and relevant study that gets behind the rhetoric around Trudeau’s statement on gender based analysis and infrastructure projects like pipelines:

Justin Trudeau set off a social media firestorm during the G20 summit in Argentina in November when he said, “Even big infrastructure projects, you know, might now say, ‘Well, what does a gender lens have to do with building this new highway or this new pipeline or something?’ Well, you know, there are gender impacts when you bring construction workers into a rural area. There are social impacts because they’re mostly male construction workers. How are you adjusting and adapting to those?” A Toronto Sun editorial headline appeared soon after: “Trudeau Unacceptably Smears Construction Workers.” Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer called him “a threat to rural Canada” in a tweet. Many Canadians have taken to Facebook and Twitter expressing their anger that Trudeau suggested that they or their husbands, sons or brothers who work in resource industries might be causing harm in rural communities.

We recently completed a report for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, based on a review of over 400 scholarly and community research articles and interviews with seven key informants, about strengthening impact assessments of large resource developments to better understand and consider the experiences of Indigenous women. Our research found that there are both positive and negative — but mostly negative — social, economic, cultural and health impacts for Indigenous (and non-Indigenous) women when a resource development project is situated near their community. These gendered impacts are regularly overlooked in current environmental impact assessment processes.

Gendered impacts of resource development

New employment and business opportunities are some of the most important benefits of resource development for rural and remote communities. Indigenous women who are able to access these opportunities report positive impacts on their self-confidence and financial independence. However, not all women are able to access good-quality, high-paying jobs. Because of persistent gendered work patterns, women typically bear the bulk of care work in families and communities. When child care services are unavailable, unaffordable or inaccessible, women face barriers to accessing the training needed for high-paying jobs, such as those in the trades. The shift work and fly-in, fly-out nature of many resource development industries also creates child care challenges for families. While impact benefit agreements and other arrangements sometimes provide preferential hiring opportunities for Indigenous women, these jobs are often temporary, low-skilled and low-paying, and in traditionally feminine sectors like cooking and housekeeping.

Increases in violence and harassment are common impacts of resource development identified by Indigenous women. Racialized and sexualized violence and harassment are frequently reported by Indigenous women who are employed at resource extraction job sites. Women in communities near resource extraction sites sometimes experience rapid increases in gender-based and sexual violence. In particular, the stress that “two-week-on, two-week-off” industry work schedules place on families sometimes contributes to gender-based violence in workers’ homes. More disposable income can lead to increases in substance use and abuse, which research studies have linked to increased crime rates and increased rates of gendered and sexualized violence for women and girls.

Increases in sex work often accompany resource development industries and the mass influx of primarily male workers to resource towns and work camps. Some women enter sex work as an alternative source of income for themselves and their families, while others are victims of human trafficking.

Nearby resource development projects further strain what are in many cases very limited housing resources in Indigenous communities and in northern municipalities with high numbers of Indigenous people. Indigenous women who experience intergenerational trauma, addictions or mental health crises and who have low levels of education are especially vulnerable to becoming hard-to-house or homeless in these contexts. Others who have jobs with lower incomes than those in resource development sectors can find it hard or impossible to afford housing in their home communities.

The social impacts are both positive and negative, but our research shows that for Indigenous women, and other marginalized members of communities, the negative impacts are in many cases likely to outweigh the positive ones.

Trudeau is correct to call for gender-based analysis. People’s Party Leader Maxime Berniersuggests that considering gender in resource development is “cultural Marxism nonsense,” and others have worried it will be “bad for business,” but gender-based analysis is an analytical tool used around the world by governments, businesses, researchers and nonprofit organizations. The federal government committed to using gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to guide its decision-making beginning in 1995, although the fall 2015 Auditor General’s report made it clear that the quality of GBA+ in many federal departments has historically been less than ideal.

Using a GBA+ lens involves asking deliberate questions about not only gender but also diversity impacts and outcomes, focusing on who receives most of the benefits and who bears more of the costs in policy planning and decision-making, including decisions about resource development. In this case, it also involves making sure that environmental impact assessment processes seek out and listen to the voices of Indigenous women and other community members whose experiences have historically been overlooked.

Culturally relevant gender-based analysis recognizes the diversity among members of communities. It is an important analytical tool that can help to identify gendered impacts and aid in the development of plans to mitigate the worse impacts on women, to ensure that all members of our communities (Indigenous and non-Indigenous, women and men) can share in the benefits of resource extraction and to make it less likely that more marginalized members of communities, including women and girls and people with disabilities, will face more negative impacts than positive ones.

This article is based on a report co-written with Patricia Nash (independent researcher, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL) and Deborah Stienstra (Jarislowsky Chair in Families and Work, University of Guelph).

Source: Why are we so afraid of gender-based analysis?

ICYMI: How Ottawa is trying to breathe new life into a 22-year-old policy for gender equality

In addition to gender, policy making needs to consider the impact on other employment equity groups (visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities) as well as other groups such as LGBTQ. The annual report on immigration provides one of the better examples of GBA but is mainly descriptive (2017 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration – Canada.ca):

Twenty-two years ago, the Canadian government made a commitment. Every piece of legislation, and all new policies and programs, would be treated to what is called a “gender-based analysis.”

This bureaucratic procedure, while arcane, was meant to do something momentous: bring the experience of women to the nerve-centre of political decision-making. A government that does gender-based analyses is a government with gender equality on the brain.

But that’s not what happened — at least not immediately.

Consider the current Liberal government’s national housing strategy, which was unwrapped in Toronto in November. In a different world, Colette Prévost of the YWCA wouldn’t have worried that the politicians crafting the policy could be blind to the gender dynamics it grapples with. She wouldn’t have felt compelled to organize a lobbying blitz in the weeks before the policy was unveiled, to make sure it dealt with the particulars of homelessness for women and girls, whom she said often flee violence and are uncounted by shelter systems across the country.

And though she was ultimately happy with what the Liberals came up with — including a pledge to put 25 per cent of the billions of dollars in new spending to initiatives for women and girls — her experience in recent years underscored her skepticism towards the gender-based commitments of government.

As she put it, “We have to do better than what has been done in the last several years.”

What she meant, of course, is what has not been done. In 2016, Auditor General Michael Ferguson released a report that found the government’s gender-based analyses — GBAs for short — were “not always complete, nor of consistent quality.” Speaking at a committee about the report a few weeks later, Meena Ballantyne, head of Status of Women Canada, said the work of tracking and ensuring GBAs are done better is “just beginning.”

In other words, despite two-decades of supposed adherence to the completion of GBAs, the current administration under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is still trying to breathe new life into this longstanding promise.

“It’s been this 20-year, episodic effort,” said Nancy Peckford, executive director of Equal Voice, an organization devoted to bringing more women into politics. “It’s not going to happen overnight.”

One can wonder what would be different today, had this pledge been taken more seriously since 1995. Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, pointed to recent harassment scandals among the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and at the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency.

She suggested such controversies could be avoided with better government direction on gender equality — something that would ostensibly be achieved with good GBAs.

Even initiatives with no obvious gender dimension can yield eye-opening results from a GBA, such as resource projects, Porteous said. For instance, a new industrial site, like a fresh mine or a refurbished shipping terminal, can bring large numbers of male workers into small communities, which can increase the likelihood of violence against women, she said. If such projects get a GBA, then government can plan for this and increase funding to local shelters and support programs when such resource projects are approved, she said.

“The only thing that can happen in relation to doing a deeper gender-based analysis is good outcomes,” she said. “Women and children and whole families will only be safer.”

The Trudeau Liberals say they’re beefing up GBAs and have placed gender equality at the centre of the government’s thinking. Since the auditor general’s 2016 report on GBA inconsistencies, the government has made GBAs mandatory for all memoranda to cabinet — policy proposals that need cabinet approval — and submissions for spending to the Treasury Board.

There is also a new survey for deputy ministers on the implementation of GBAs, which have been expanded to include the consideration of policy impacts on people with various gender, racial and sexual identities.

Status of Women Canada, meanwhile, is “updating training tools and materials” relating to GBAs, and providing advice on proposals such as the housing strategy defence policy review and innovation agenda, said agency spokesperson Léonie Roux.

The finance department also brought GBAs to the fore last spring when it published a “gender statement” in the 2017 budget. Officials from Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office said this month that the department is working to make gender issues a major plank of the 2018 spending plan. In an emailed statement, Morneau said the department has increased funding for its own GBAs and raised the idea of budgets including gender statements with provincial finance ministers in December.

As Finance Department spokesperson Jocelyn Sweet explained, each federal budget proposal is now expected to go through a GBA, which are reviewed by department officials and then passed along to the minister.

There are exemptions to this requirement, though, including if the initiative is deemed to be urgent or a matter of “macroeconomic policy” — meaning if it applies in a general sense.

But Sweet couldn’t say how often policies are exempted from GBAs because the finance department doesn’t track how often the exemptions are used. So while GBAs are being emphasized as important by the Trudeau government, the extent of their implementation remains unclear.

On top of that, it’s difficult to say whether they’re having an impact on policy. A senior official from the finance department who spoke to the Star on background could not provide a single example of how a GBA had changed a spending plan or federal policy.

For Michele Austin, who was chief of staff to the Status of Women Minister in Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, this underlines how GBAs are little more than window dressing. Austin, who is now a senior advisor at Summa Strategies in Ottawa, said she has “absolutely no clue” what impact GBAs have on government policy.

“I fully applaud the Liberal government for raising the profile of gender — full top marks,” she said. “At the same time, I would note that it costs nothing to do that and often changes very little.”

Indeed, since the inaugural and unprecedented act of including an equal number of men and women in the federal cabinet, the current Liberal government has placed gender in the top rung of its priorities.

Judy Sgro, a long-time Liberal MP from Toronto who served in Paul Martin’s cabinet, said that GBAs are an important part of the government’s overall stance on gender equality. She pointed to the Canada Child Benefit, one of the government’s most frequently championed policies, as an initiative that was designed to have a big impact on women.

According to the 2017 budget’s gender statement, roughly 90 per cent of people who receive the maximum child benefit of $9,000-per-year are single mothers.

Sgro blamed the Harper Conservatives for delaying deeper GBA implementation during their decade in power, having been chair of the Status of Women committee in 2006 when she recommended that the analyses become mandatory for all government departments.

“The leadership (that is now) coming out of the prime minister’s office is that these issue matter, and he wants to see these things put into action,” Sgro said.

“It’s a long time coming.”

The YWCA, at least, is applauding Ottawa’s gender focus. On the housing strategy, Prévost said the government struck the right balance, with a significant orientation toward how to improve the housing situation for women and girls.

“I have to say I was almost surprised,” she laughed, adding that she will be “anxiously monitoring” how the spending is actually rolled out.

“We’re hopefully optimistic,” she said. “I think this is a very good first step.”

via How Ottawa is trying to breathe new life into a 22-year-old policy for gender equality | Toronto Star

The Liberals are talking about gender, and that will change Ottawa

Good reporting and analysis by Campbell Clark:

In fact, it’s not easy for the Liberals to show their gender policies will change the day-to-day lives of women here, let alone around the world. And political opponents dismiss a lot of it as branding.

But there’s no doubt that this government’s focus on women will have a lasting impact on Canadian politics and government. Even the symbols: It’s hard to imagine a future prime minister appointing a cabinet where two-thirds of the ministers are men.

Some of the symbols around gender issues that delight Liberals seem to particularly irritate their opponents, such as Mr. Trudeau’s repeated assertions that he’s a feminist. “Pinkwashing,” one New Democrat called it – accusing the Liberals of mounting a marketing exercise when they won’t back substantive policies to address, for example, the gender gap for low-income women. Some Conservatives argue the Liberals spend money on bureaucracy to signal their good intentions, but their plans won’t have concrete effects.

But opponents who dismiss it as political marketing tend to admit it probably works. “Oh, they’re kicking our ass,” said one Conservative. When in power, Conservatives were often reluctant to talk about the representation of women in positions of power; on the left, touting a feminist foreign-aid policy, for example, can help the Liberals compete with the NDP for progressive voters.

And it’s clearly not motivated by just electoral politics. There are true believers, cabinet appointees such as Labour Minister Patty Hajdu and influential senior aides such as Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford. The government, under Ms. Telford’s eye, has applied gender-equity tools on matters so boringly inside the machinery of government, such as gender analysis in every department and on all initiatives before cabinet, that it can’t possibly be aimed at voters. It’s hard to say if that will really have an impact, but in theory, the government will know if infrastructure funds for hockey arenas or daycares are going to create jobs for men or women, or benefit one gender more.

When an investigation by The Globe and Mail’s Robyn Doolittle found that one in five sexual-assault complaints was dismissed as unfounded, and that the rate of this finding varied dramatically from place to place, it sparked an immediate e-mail chain between Ms. Telford, Ms. Monsef, and Ms. Hajdu. A month later, the budget set aside $100-million for a gender-based violence strategy.

The thing is, gender-based violence is a big, complex problem. Ms. Monsef called it the “greatest barrier to gender equity in this country.” The centrepiece of the government’s new strategy is collecting data, and there have been questions about whether that’s really an adequate response.

Ms. Monsef noted that figures haven’t been collected since 1993 – “We have cyberviolence. That didn’t happen in 1993,” she said. Data will help design effective prevention programs. But a key reason she offers is that they will honour the stories of survivors by collecting “evidence” for policies. Another Liberal government insider suggested that with solid numbers, it’s harder to argue about the scale of the issue.

It’s unclear what impact the strategy will have. But the Liberals have done a key thing to the politics: They’ve raised demand, and expectations.

Source: The Liberals are talking about gender, and that will change Ottawa – The Globe and Mail

Why budget ‘gender statements’ are a bad idea

One thing to argue that gender and diversity analysis should include men (hard not to agree given some of the disturbing trends regarding education and outcomes), quite another to dismiss GBA entirely like Peter Shawn Taylor appears to do.

In my various analyses of diversity in government appointments, it is generally simpler to present one gender than both, as the numbers are simply the flip side of one another (and yes, traditionally women and other minorities have been under-represented). But narratives can and should be more inclusive.

And while Lilla’s thesis that identity politics led to the alienation of white males, it is more likely that the fundamental changes in the economy and the impact on white working class males played a larger part:

The Gender Statement’s ultimate consequence is to promote a winner-take-all gender competition—a battle between the sexes to see who can muster the best (that is, worst) numbers in making their case for systemic discrimination. The mere fact I’m writing this now—the heresy of men’s rights notwithstanding—proves the point. Ottawa’s plan to expand its Gender Statement in future years to include new identities such as ethnicity, age and sexual orientation can only raise this contrived grievance-search to new, intersectional heights.

At this point, I’m reminded of Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla’s much-shared essay in the New York Times, The End of Identity Liberalism, in which he unpacked the destructive impact of the political fixation on gender, racial and sexual identities on the U.S. election.

“A generation of liberals and progressives [have become] narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups,” he writes. Such obsessive attention to self-identity eventually caused white, predominantly-male Americans to similarly think of themselves as a disadvantaged group, thereby putting Donald Trump in the White House. “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it,” Lilla concludes, calling on liberals to spend more time promoting shared experiences and values, rather than curating differences.

Surely this is the fire we’re playing at in Canada as well with the budget’s Gender Statement. It encourages Canadians to consider the country’s fiscal plan not in its broad sweep and affect on the country, but rather through the lens of narrowly-defined identity categories. And to succeed in this context, it becomes necessary to elevate whatever disadvantages your group might experience while ignoring those of competing groups.

This might work for a while. But eventually everyone will start to demand their special moment. Men might even wonder why they’re asked to pay 66 per cent of all taxes, while their problems get zero per cent of Ottawa’s sympathy and attention. And then what?

Source: Why budget ‘gender statements’ are a bad idea – Macleans.ca

The budget’s gender-based analysis forgot to look at one thing — men: Neil Macdonald

Valid question to ask, as no reason why GBA could not also look at areas where males are struggling or disadvantaged.

However, assertion that “women own government” and citing the figure that women form 71 percent of the public service ignores that women are overwhelmingly concentrated in support and admin positions (see my analysis Federal Employment Equity).

In terms of executive-level positions, the chart above shows that while considerable progress has been achieved, not yet at parity for the most senior positions (DMs and ADMs):

Every liberal, after all, is raised to believe that male privilege is the anchor determinant in our society, and that being born male — especially a white male — confers possession of the keys to society’s ignition.

And yet.

Here are a few things the budget’s gender-based analysis ignores, and might be worth addressing next time:

Women do much better than men in school.

That wasn’t the case even 20 years ago, but as Statistics Canada puts it: “Today, the situation is completely different. Education indicators show that women generally do better than men.”

The gap begins in kindergarten, where girls earn better marks than boys, and continues right through university.

“More girls than boys earn their high school diploma within the expected timeframe, and girls are less likely to drop out. More women than men enrol in college and university programs. A greater percentage of women leave these programs with a diploma or degree.”

If that trend continues, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, it isn’t hard to see what lies ahead: an increasingly uneducated and unemployable male population.

“It is quite troubling that increasing numbers of young men are dropping out,” says Philip Cross, former chief economic analyst for Statistics Canada. “They don’t tend to do well in public school, and they’re constantly told that if you don’t go to university, you might as well not be in our society, and they know they probably aren’t going to university, so they just drop out. An increasing number of men are not in the labour force and not going to school. This is not good.”

Women have not yet caught up to men in the private sector, but they own the public service, by far the single biggest employer in the country.

According to Statistics Canada, women not only comprise 71 per cent of Canada’s 4.1 million public sector jobs at all levels of government, but“gender parity now exists in the public sector with respect to women’s representation in leadership positions.”

Meaning that while women are still a designated group for the purposes of preferential hiring in the public service, they now have most of the jobs and at least half of the most senior jobs.

Cross puts it rather bluntly: “Women are overrepresented in government, and government jobs are the best jobs. Best job security, best pension benefits, best everything.”

Further, he says, women now dominate the feeder positions for all the most senior jobs in government.

The overwhelming majority of people who have lost their jobs in the resource sector out west and the manufacturing sector, mostly in Ontario, are men.

As Springsteen sang, these jobs are going, boys, and they ain’t coming back.

“There is a certain type of man who you wanted in the oil sands, out of town, blowing things up,” says Cross. “Those people still exist, and now they are jobless, and what do we do with them now?”

Exact figures are difficult to find, but Janice MacKinnon, a university professor and former NDP finance minister in Saskatchewan, says it’s a “staggering number.” And those jobs that do come back will demand higher skill levels.

She notes there is absolutely nothing in the budget’s gender-based analysis about those jobs, or what to do about their disappearance.

“Where’s the strategy on that?” she asks. “If you are going to look at gender, that’s fine, but there are areas where boys and men are struggling, and they need to be documented, too.”

MacKinnon even goes so far as to say that being a white male entering the current job market is a disadvantage.

Cross puts it another way: “Historically, our economic system has favoured men, but the trend is in the opposite direction.”

He would dearly like someone to ask the government why none of its gender-based analysis addressed any of the forgoing.

So I wrote one of the prime minister’s senior advisers to ask.

The reply: “It is a reasonable question to ask.”

But, um, no answer.

Source: The budget’s gender-based analysis forgot to look at one thing — men: Neil Macdonald – CBC News | Opinion

Liberals fall short with first gender-based federal budget

Erin Anderssen’s analysis of the government’s first foray in including gender-based analysis in budget-making.

Like all early efforts, imperfect, but the template and accountability that goes with it is being set:

But it’s in their flagship programs – parental and caregiving leave, and child-care spending – that they flounder. The Liberals are keeping a campaign promise to allow more flexibility in maternity and parental leave; women will be able to take leave 12 weeks before giving birth, stretch one year of employment insurance benefits over 18 months, or work sporadically. The government is also adding a new caregiver leave, which allows people to take employment insurance for 15 weeks to care for a critically ill relative.

But that’s only for the lucky Canadians who can afford it. Those programs will charm upper-middle-class women who can get by on EI and are significantly more likely to have their wages topped up by an employer. But a study published last year by researchers at Brock University and the University of Montreal found that outside of Quebec, 38 per cent of mothers are excluded from parental leave as they don’t make enough or haven’t worked long enough to qualify for EI. (In Quebec, where the government tops up benefits and has expanded eligibility, it’s a different story: 85 per cent of mothers earning less than $30,000 a year take provincially funded leave.) Unlike under the federal proposal, new dads in Quebec also get their own use-it-or-lose-it time at home – a policy that research suggests helps to gender-balance both caregiving and workplace expectations on parents.

There’s an economic argument for gender-based budget analysis: Done properly, it should increase the labour-force participation of half the population. In Canada, women’s employment has stalled at about 81 per cent for a decade, and, as the budget itself notes, the country continues to have one of the highest gender wage gaps in the OECD. That’s where affordable, accessible, high-quality child care comes in, creating an environment that enables women to work while raising a family. (And however often the government tweaks these programs, low-income mothers can hardly take advantage of job training or university loans if they can’t find or afford child care.)

This Liberal budget isn’t going to make that happen in Canada anytime soon. Ottawa is promising $7-billion in child care but only spending about $500-million a year during the government’s current mandate. The budget suggests this funding “could” create 40,000 subsidized spaces over the next three years, depending on how the provinces spend it. For a frame of reference, consider that Quebec’s $20-a-day child-care plan costs more than $2.4-billion. There are currently about 500,000 regulated centre-based spots in the entire country – enough for only one in four children under the age of five. The country needs a lot more than 40,000 might-happen spaces.

Give the Liberals kudos for referring to women on nearly every page of the budget, for showing that the federal government knows its own statistics. But Canadian families – especially low-income mothers striving to join the middle class – already know where they’re crunched and what might help. They should expect Canada’s first feminist government to pick up a gender-balanced share of the check where it will help most and provide the analysis to back it up. There’s always next year.

Source: Liberals fall short with first gender-based federal budget – The Globe and Mail

Anne Kingston’s take in Macleans:

Gender-based analysis (GBA) isn’t new. Canada committed to implementing it in 1995, at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. More than two decades later, we’re still not there; a 2016 government  audit found GBA employed spottily at the federal level, if at all. A Status of Women committee called for mandatory adoption of GBA across all government departments and agencies by June of this year. The tally of what that will cost has not been provided.

The usefulness of GBA was in fact highlighted even earlier: in the 2016 budget, the first tabled by a government lead by a self-declared feminist Canadian prime minister. Kate McInturff, a senior researcher at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, conducted her own GBA in a withering appraisal: in one instance, she drilled into the $11.6 billion in job creation measures the government expected to add some 143,000 jobs, concluding that women comprised only 36 percent of beneficiaries.

Budget 2017 brings us a new twist: “GBA+,” with the “+”  referring to “the intersecting identity factors that must be considered in public policy along with, and in relation to, gender (e.g. ethnicity, age, income, sexual orientation).” The section on gender-based violence highlights the need. While Indigenous women, children and youth, and LGBTQ2 and gender non-conforming people are at higher risk of violence, it noted, women who live with physical and cognitive impairments are at even higher risk. Senior women, it adds, are the most frequent targets of “family violence”—at a rate 24 per cent higher than that of senior men. (Lest anyone think that GBA is intended only to assist women, the Gender Statement also notes inequities experienced by men, pointing to evidence that the suicide rate for men is three times higher than the rate for women, yet women attempt suicide three to four times more often than men).

Many of the statistics presented in the Gender Statement have been well-publicized. Women make up 47 percent of the paid workforce in Canada, and are more likely to have post-secondary training, yet earn, on average, some 30 percent less than men. That wage gap has been declining over the past decades, yet the country “continues to have one of the highest wage gaps among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries,” the report noted.  Women are disproportionately represented in lower-paying occupations across the retail, health and social-service sectors. They’re twice as likely as men to work part-time, more likely than men to cite caring for children as the reason they are in part-time work, and perform more hours of unpaid work in the home. The repercussions can be cascade-like, in keeping women from getting jobs, qualifying for Employment Insurance and falling below the poverty line.

Given the known pivotal role access to childcare has in enabling women’s access to the workforce, eyes were on the government’s  childcare initiatives. Morneau delievered a big number: $7 billion toward early learning and childcare to increase the number of “high-quality child care spaces available across the country” (the minister also spoke of creating up to 40,000 new subsidized child care spaces over the next three years working with the provinces and territories; it’s also a big number but it doesn’t being to fill the need). Here, there was no deviation from the government’s much-publicized Canada Child Benefit. More significantly, these monies are backloaded over the next decade—to 2028—thus designed as an incentive to vote Liberal at least twice.

Parental leave after a baby’s arrival has also been extended to 18 months, at a cost of $152 million over the first five years, $27.5  a year thereafter. This appears good news for women, who make up 92 percent of those taking leave. A closer look, however, shows it’s just extending the current 12-month leave for another six months with no additional funds given.

The budget’s big, headline-making news was a $101-million commitment over five years—just over $20 million a year—to support a “National Strategy to Address Gender-Based Violence”  like those seen in Australia and Ireland.  Yet given the economic cost of violence against women, the commitment seems miniscule.  Justice Canada estimates spousal abuse and violence against women costs the economy an estimated $12.2 billion per year.

The budget did, however, appear to honour “caring labour,” as economist Nancy Folbre terms it. There’s a proposal to consolidate the existing caregiver credit into into a new “Canada Caregiver Credit” that would allow caregivers to claim tax credits up to $6,883 on expenses arising from caring for a relative with “infirmities” including those with disabilities. There’s also a new “caregiver leave,” which permits people caring for a critically ill relative to  take employment insurance for 15 weeks. More women than men are caregivers, according to Statistics Canada (some 54 per cent in 2012). Yet a higher proportion of men claim caregiver tax credits (55 per cent of all individuals claiming the Caregiver Credit and 59 per cent of those claiming the Infirm Dependant Credit).

Inequities at the upper employment echelons were also noted by Morneau, a former Bay Street executive. In 2016, women comprised only 26 percent of senior management jobs in the private sector and occupied only 19.5 percent of seats on boards of Financial Post 500 companies. Morneau’s stated solution was to rely on advice from the high-profile squad of businesswomen who accompanied Prime Minister Trudeau on his first meeting and photo-op with Donald Trump at the White House: “We’ve asked the Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders to quickly advise us on how we can better empower women entrepreneurs, and remove barriers for women in business,” Morneau said.  Given that the group’s second meeting has yet to be announced, just how quickly, or even if, that advice will be delivered remains a major question mark.

On a day of “gender-based analysis” one would be remiss not to notice that the new approach was delivered by a constant in Canadian political life: a male finance minister. The much-celebrated new shoes purchased for the occasion, (this year’s are symbolically “NAFTA-correct”) have always been brogues or oxfords. Even in Trudeau’s much-vaunted gender equal cabinet, the money man remains a man.

Today, however, Canada’s male finance minister appeared willing to break one gender stereotype, with his government, in asking for new  directions, even if he didn’t always follow them. The Gender Statement ended with the admission that there’s more to learn. There are “current gaps in data and understanding” it conceded, adding there’s “still much work to be done.” On that point, it’s impossible to disagree.

Source: The hope and hype of a ‘gender-based’ budget

Bureaucrats assess impacts of policies on women — but results kept secret

Indeed. There should be a way to shed some light on the gender-based analysis involved without violating Cabinet confidentiality:

Canada committed to using gender-based analysis in 1995, as part of ratifying the UN Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, but the auditor general concluded last year that relatively few departments and agencies were using it, or that they were doing so in an incomplete and inconsistent way.

That is changing. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is said to have pushed for more rigorous gender-based analysis around the cabinet table. Finance Minister Bill Morneau pledged to put the 2017 federal budget through the same process and publish the results.

The finance department plays a special role in gender-based analysis.

It puts many of its own policies through the process, but it also reviews the gender-based analysis done by other departments on any budget proposals before they can go to Morneau.

Treasury Board and the Privy Council Office, the other two central agencies, perform a similar “challenge function.” A template for the new due diligence document that must now be submitted with every memorandum to cabinet shows proposals must include a summary of findings from a gender-based analysis.

This is where the newly declassified memo comes in.

The report from the status of women committee had recommended all three central agencies “produce annual reports on the challenge function they play in promoting the application of (gender-based analysis).” It also recommended they share these reports with a commissioner for gender equality — another recommendation from the report.

This is what the part of the memo regarding the limits of transparency — contained in a heavily redacted section titled “considerations” — was responding to.

New Democrat MP Sheila Malcolmson, vice-chair of the status of women committee, said people need to know what questions the government is asking itself.

“We heard a lot of evidence that there is no transparency on the challenge function and nobody was able to really point to any examples of where legislation or a funding decision had been turned back at the cabinet level because they hadn’t done the (gender-based analysis) test,” Malcolmson said.

It is especially important for the finance department to find a way to shed more light on their decisions, said Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu, who chairs the committee.

“They are the ones putting money to programs that may adversely affect women if not done well,” she said.

There is a sign the finance department is looking for a better way.

The government’s official response to the committee report, tabled in the House last October, included this line: “All central agencies will explore ways to better communicate publicly the role and value-added of their challenge function with respect to (gender-based analysis.)”

Jack Aubry, a spokesman for the finance department, referred to this line when asked about the memo, but said he could not give any more details.

Isabella Bakker, a political scientist at York University who has done research on gender budgeting, said the finance department should be able to find some balance. “They could develop some kind of internal measure that would get around the issue of secrecy, but would at least give a broad indication of what they were doing.”

Add women, change budgets? Underused gender policy tool finds new fans in Trudeau’s cabinet

In contrast to the bleak assessment posted earlier (Ottawa’s gender-based analysis was predestined to fail : Lynda Gullason), there does appear to be some progress on GBA (requirement in MCs and TB submissions).

This not only sends a key signal but equally important requires background analysis in order to be mentioned in cabinet documents. We will only know how effective this requirement has been following the next OAG audit:

There’s a T-shirt for sale on the Liberal Party’s website that features the slogan “Add women… change politics.”

You can’t say self-described “feminist” Justin Trudeau isn’t trying.

First, he picked a half-female cabinet. Four of the five Liberal candidates in the by-elections now underway are women — including those in three ridings Liberals won in 2015 and look to win again.

But changing politics — or its politicians — is one thing. Changing policy is another.

That’s one of the reasons March 22’s federal budget will be worth watching.

The finance department will include something that’s never been offered before: a gender-based analysis for budget measures.

It’s the latest way Liberals are trying to walk the talk they campaigned on in the last election.

“We will consider the gender impacts of the decisions we make,” the Liberal platform promised. “Public policies affect women and men in different ways.”

Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s fall economic statement promised “more rigorous analysis” to “deliver real and meaningful change.”

But what does that mean?

Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos offered reporters a preview last Friday. One of highest-profile things his government introduced so far is a good example of more gender-sensitive policy, he said.

The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is helping lift about 200,000 parents out of poverty, and about 70 per cent of those are mothers, he said.

“Almost half of the children that are being lifted out of poverty because of the CCB are in single-parent families. And 90 per cent of these single-parent families are headed by women,” the minister said.

Not just about women

Trudeau’s team didn’t invent gender-based analysis.

Canada made a commitment at the 1995 United Nations conference on women to “ensure that before policy decisions are taken, an analysis of their impact on women and men, respectively, is carried out.”

But progress in the 22 years since has been slow.

The auditor general has scolded the government twice for its tepid embrace of gender analysis, most recently after an audit completed in the final year of the former Conservative government.

Among over 100 federal departments and agencies, only 30 had committed to it by early 2015, and six of those hadn’t fully implemented it.

Four departments that were doing gender analyses were examined by the auditor general, who in 2015 found incomplete work that lacked enough evidence for decision-makers.

The Liberal platform promised to do better. “We will also ensure that federal departments are conducting the gender-based impact analyses that have been required of them for the past 20 years,” it said.

It’s not only about advocating for women. Status of Women Canada says the government’s current requirements go beyond gender-based analysis: analyzing not just gender, but also age, education, language, geography, culture and income to find ways some aren’t equal to others.

“Have you or someone you know taken parental leave, been treated for heart disease or recently immigrated to Canada?” its website says, offering examples of policy shaped by studying inequalities.

Equality equals economic growth?

Officials admit things aren’t fully in place across every department this spring. But starting from the top and trickling down, it’s clear this way of thinking is the new intended normal.

The privy council office is asking for gender analysis when policy proposals are prepared for cabinet.

Duclos said gender parity among ministers making those decisions has already had “tremendous value.”

“It’s been extremely satisfying to see both the level of actions and the attitudes, how that changes,” he said.

Asked for examples of policy from his shop now shaped by gender analysis, Duclos names two areas: housing and child care.

The budget will offer more details, he said, following recent work with the provinces.

Duclos, an economist before entering politics, is on a pre-budget tour this week, putting down markers for how Morneau’s budget will promote economic growth.

He laid out three things Liberals are focusing on — innovation, public and private capital, and labour, or human capital.

Making it easier to start or return to work — offering training or child care, for example — improves labour force participation rates and in turn, overall productivity. And more people working improves economic growth.

“We’re sensitive to both economic inclusion and social inclusion,” he said. “It involves all characteristics beyond income that make it difficult sometimes for Canadians to feel included in our society. And gender is one.”

Spending proposals submitted to the Treasury Board now must include proof that gender was considered.

A form available online that civil servants use for Treasury Board submissions asks for evidence and data sources, as well as a plan for monitoring what happens after a program starts.

That fits with the Trudeau government’s affection for “deliverology” — measuring results, not just the initial splash of an announcement.

Widespread compliance with bureaucratic processes isn’t the end goal. Equal opportunities are.

Source: Add women, change budgets? Underused gender policy tool finds new fans in Trudeau’s cabinet – Politics – CBC News

Ottawa’s gender-based analysis was predestined to fail : Lynda Gullason

Hard hitting assessment (less of an issue with respect to employment equity in the public service, where regular tracking and data indicate overall progress, and more of an issue with policy and program design, where GBA – and broader diversity analysis – is rarely practiced):

But the gender-based analysis initiative is predestined – perhaps even predesigned – to fail.

Intended to assess the potential gender-specific impacts of policies, programs, legislation and services on women and men, its critical shortcomings severely limit its utility.

To start, there are no mandatory requirements for federal departments and agencies to conduct such analysis. Only 30 out of 110 departments are even signed on to the gender-based analysis action plan – 22 years after it was initially adopted.

There is no monitoring or evaluation or reporting of the implementation and outcomes by Status of Women Canada or by the departments and agencies themselves, although SWC was required to do so after the 2009 audit.

In fact, Status of Women Canada has no authority to enforce the application of gender-based analysis and there are no consequences for departments and agencies which do not conduct it.

There is no measurement of gender equity: no data collection to analyze and correct unfair practices and policies; no baselines or targets and no performance indicators to track progress.

Departments conducting gender-based analyses are required to, but do not, propose measures to address gender inequities. The Canadian Armed Forces, for example, which has set an employment target for women of 25 per cent, has developed no employment equity strategy to achieve that target, and its actual number remains unchanged at 14 per cent.

And so it follows, there are no consequences for departments and agencies which fail to ensure gender equity.

Auditor-General Michael Ferguson has expressed frustration with the federal government’s inability to address gender discrimination, which persists despite decades of audits. Fully half of the gender-based analyses conducted by the audited departments in his 2015 report were incomplete. Yet for the incomplete analyses, these departments “nevertheless concluded” that there were no gender-specific impacts, “and they provided these conclusions to decision-makers.” This is serious: because the conclusions were not supported by evidence, there is the question of “whether Cabinet had been adequately informed about existing and potential gender considerations.”

In response, Status of Women Canada has plans to “explore the development of gender equality indicators,” according to its statement to the Standing Committee on Status of Women last spring. “This is work that is just beginning in terms of how we are going to define success and how we are going to attract progress as we continue to monitor and report,” says Meena Ballantyne, the head of the agency, in her 2016 presentation to the Public Accounts Committee. Except that the agency neither monitors nor reports, and the work should not be “just beginning” some 20 years after the principle of gender-based analysis was first accepted.

When asked at a Status of Women committee meeting how gender-based analysis is measured and how we know whether it is actually implemented, the response of the agency’s gender-based analysis manager, Vaughn Charlton, was, astonishingly, “That is the million-dollar question.” Status of Women Canada, she said in a written reply to the same questions, “simply does not collect this type of information.”

Moreover, the agency’s plan to develop an evaluation strategy will actually measure and report on the agency’s progress in implementing gender-based analysis, rather than the progress made in correcting gender discrimination. And that evaluation of its own performance won’t even be completed until 2020, 25 years after such analysis was introduced.

The fundamental goal of gender-based analysis must actually be gender equity. And that is only achieved when discriminatory policies and practices are corrected.

Thirty-four years after Justice Rosalie Abella wrote in her 1984 Report of the Commission on Equality in Employment that, “Equality in employment will not happen unless we make it happen”; 22 years after gender-based analysis was first adopted by the Canadian government; eight years after the previous negative audit, and 18 months after the most recent one, there is, as the Auditor-General notes in his 2016 Fall Reports “no mandatory requirement subjecting policy, legislation and program decisions to gender-based analysis.”

A more ill-conceived approach to correcting gender discrimination is hard to imagine. No analysis, no monitoring, no evaluation, no enforcement, and no consequences: no surprise, really, that gender inequity will continue under the federal government’s gender-based analysis implementation plan.

Source: Ottawa’s gender-based analysis was predestined to fail – The Globe and Mail