What does tax justice have to do with feminism and gender equality? For Inter Pares and many groups we work with, the connections are clear. Tax justice is a feminist issue and something governments have to address if they want to tackle gender inequality. Recently our counterpart, Canadians for Tax Fairness (C4TF), met with the Ministry of Finance to make this point. At the heart of the argument: nations need social programs that address gender inequality and require tax revenue to pay for them. As Diana Gibson of C4TF states, “The government needs the revenues to deliver programs like child care, elder care, pharmacare and pensions that are desperately needed by low income women in Canada.”
Globally, with no country excepted, women on average have lower incomes, do more unpaid work, do more precarious and low-paid work and have less income security than men. This economic inequality is also reflected in other related gender issues such as access to health and education. A government’s capacity to reduce gender inequality is determined in large part by the amount of revenue it raises in taxes. A study of African countries by ActionAid illustrates this point – as tax revenue, measured as a percent of GDP, goes up, the maternal mortality rate goes down. Of course, this also depends on how the revenue is used. Revenue can pay for fighter jets or it can pay for child care programs. Strengthening the capacity of civil society, especially women’s organizations, to hold their governments accountable for how money is spent is crucial.
In Canada, and even more starkly in the Global South, high levels of tax evasion and tax avoidance result in vast amounts of wealth flowing into tax havens instead of into state coffers. The lack of revenue hits women and children the hardest. Women’s care burden and poverty levels are dramatically reduced when there is revenue to pay for healthcare, child care, education, clean water, public transport and dependable electricity.
If we want countries to have the revenue to address the needs of poor women, the government of Canada must help address the problems with the global financial system. Concrete measures to address tax justice exist: things like country-by-country tax reporting for corporations and a public registry of corporate ownership. However, these need the political commitment of Canada and other wealthy countries to put them in place. Through collaboration and advocacy with groups like C4TF we can make it happen.