The Gendered Costs of Austerity: assessing the IMF’s role in budget cuts which threaten women’s rights

Organization(s): CESR
Author: Kate Donald, Nicholas Lusiani
Country: Brazil
Year: 2017
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This briefing paper provides a brief assessment of the changing role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF or the Fund) with regards to one key fiscal consolidation measure: contractions in public expenditure. The briefing explores the Fund’s positive and negative influence over public expenditure decisions, and further explains how public spending cuts have an especially negative impact on women’s human rights, impeding progress towards gender equality. Subsequently, this briefing includes a case study of Brazil, a country in which the IMF has recently played a significant role in gender-unequal public spending cutbacks.

The briefing concludes with a series of proposals to help better safeguard women’s rights in times of economic crises. Ultimately, overly restrictive macro-economic targets to reduce public expenditure have real economic, political and human rights costs, disproportionately shouldered by women, which palliative social safety nets and targeted gender programmes cannot alone alleviate. To respect governments’ standing human rights obligations, the Fund (and its Board which are human rights duty-bearers under international law) should prioritize efforts to implement more robust and more progressive tax and fiscal alternatives which could prevent the pain of fiscal adjustment altogether.

Social Protection and Human Rights