Part 1: Have we won the battle for economic gender equity?

May 10, 2022
Federal tax Business tax

The RSM Canada National Tax Centre is pleased to present a five-part series on the role of taxation in promoting economic gender equity. This series focuses on consideration of gender bias in taxation and its potential impact on both individuals and the economy, highlighting key challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the path forward, and what we as tax practitioners can do to assess and check our own gender biases in the tax system.

Economic gender inequity arises when societal factors create disparate economic opportunities for men and women, affecting both individual and aggregate economic growth. Several endeavours can help Canada achieve economic gender equity: gender wage parity; tax policies free of implicit and explicit gender biases; and the promotion of full and effective participation in the economy by all, regardless of gender.

With a shrinking gender wage gap, extended parental leave, reduced barriers for women in male-dominated industries, and soon, federally subsidized child care, Canada appears to be trending in the right direction when it comes to economic gender equity. The federal government has routinely emphasized the importance of achieving gender equity by adopting policy and budget measures targeting exactly that. Numerous Statistics Canada surveys over the past 20 years indicate these policies and initiatives, along with a shift in perceptions, are working—more women are entering the workforce, most notably as full-time employees.

Of course, the fight for economic gender equity is in no way unique to Canada. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been a vocal champion for this cause for many years. With a staunch belief that economies are more resilient, productive and inclusive when gender inequalities are reduced, the OECD’s Gender Initiative monitors progress made by OECD governments and their countries in promoting gender equity. 

Approximately half of OECD countries, including Canada, perform gender budgeting using analytical tools to ensure their budgets align with their gender equity goals. Core elements of an effective gender budgeting approach include a strong strategic framework; effective tools of implementation; and a supportive, enabling environment.

Canada’s commitment to gender budgeting gained momentous traction in 2016. Previously an internal budget briefing process, gender budgeting had received little public exposure. But the 2016 Fall Economic Statement included a vow from the federal government to “submit Budget 2017, and all future budgets, to more rigorous analysis by completing and publishing a gender-based analysis of budgetary measures.” Since then, gender budgeting and gender-based analysis have become integral to Canada’s tax policy development and evaluation.

Despite several encouraging steps in the right direction, the battle for economic gender equity has not yet been won. This five-part series will delve further into what gender bias looks like in Canada’s tax system, as well as its impact and key challenges on the path forward.

Taxation plays a role in promoting economic gender equity. By raising awareness around often-overlooked nuances in tax policy, we can work toward a more just and equitable tax system. We hope this series will encourage open discussion among our tax practitioners as we pursue this essential goal.

More from this series: