Tax Justice Is Essential to Reduce Gender Gaps

Published on 
03/09/2020

In order to end violence, ensure women’s economic autonomy and balance in the domestic work, we must increase investments in public services. Taxes are the most sustainable source of financing for these budgets.

On March 8th, Latin American women marched for human rights and gender equality. Social movements have united for different local demands, and three of them coincide in most countries, with their own particularities: the end of violence, the socialization of unpaid work, as well as decent work and income for all. However, it is precisely in these areas that the State intervention is weakest and gender-biased.

End of Violence

Source: CEPAL

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (Eclac), the United Nations agency responsible for promoting the economic and social development of the region, during 2018, more than 3,000 women were victims of femicide. In most countries in the region, 2 out of 3 femicides were committed by an intimate partner or ex-partner.
This problem could be reduced if public health and education systems intervened to prevent violence from an early age and contribute to the construction of more egalitarian societies. The justice system must provide their team with training and adequate mechanisms to guarantee timely attention without any costs that result in further victimization.

Economic Autonomy

In most countries of the world, the tax system unfairly burdens the poorest and informal workers, who are mainly women. Due to gender gaps, women have fewer opportunities to find decent work and salaries. Consequently, they are overrepresented in unemployment, informality, and low market-valued occupations with less access to social protection.
According to the Eclac, a third of Latin American women do not earn their own income, and those who work earn only between 69.8% and 90.7% of the salary of a man.

A fundamental condition of economic autonomy is the quality of paid work and the social protection system. An economy based on extractivism, low-value-added industrial production and low-productivity services does not contribute to creating as many jobs as we need to include the increasing female labor, nor provides sufficient tax resources to finance development policies. Although women are better educated than men and have more and more aspirations, the market has been offering us few opportunities due to patterns of economic growth with low social inclusion.

Balance in Domestic Work

Source: CEPAL

In many countries, it is so common for women to take responsibility for the domestic work and care of children, elder people or any other dependent person, that many people still do not understand that this unpaid work supports the economy, while having negative consequences on women's autonomy.

On a weekly basis, women dedicate at least 20 hours to unpaid work more than men (read more about it in Spanish here). This represents between 11.5% and 18% of the GDP of some countries in the region. These numbers are only estimates and the actual value is probably higher. Despite this, unpaid work is neither recognized nor valued.
In order to reduce the burden on women, we need quality public services to care for dependent persons; greater social valorization of domestic and care work; and an equitable distribution between men, women, the market and the State. This implies the improvement of cultural and educational policies.

Tax Justice to Finance Public Services

To tackle all these problems, the States have to implement broader coverage and quality policies. This requires resources to finance the increase of state capacity and provision of gender-responsive services. And taxes are the most sustainable funding for the public budget.
Besides an increase of investments, these structural transformations require a reform of financing mechanisms to make them work for people, especially women. It is fundamental to reduce tax privileges and evasion, and change the mechanisms that unfairly burden women. This is why we call on our governments to:

  • Stop illicit financial flows and harmful tax practices that facilitate tax evasion and are biased towards wealthy countries, multinational corporations, and the wealthy.
  • Reduce unfair tax burdens on women and adopt progressive and gender just taxation.
  • Remove gender bias and discrimination in tax policies and laws.
  • Ensure tax and fiscal policies recognise and serve to represent, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work.
  • Increase allocation of tax revenues for gender-responsive social services.

Verónica Serafini Geoghegan is a feminist Paraguayan economist and member of LATINDADD and Red de Justicia Fiscal de América Latina y el Caribe.

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