Subsidies for gender audits: funds spent to reduce the gender gap in the labour market have not served their purpose
Press release on audit No 22/10 - 20 March 2023
The SAO examined the use of subsidies earmarked for so-called gender audits between the years 2014 and 2021 and the implementation of their recommendations. The funds granted under the Operational Programme Employment 2014–2020 (OPE) and co-financed by the state budget aimed to reduce the gender gap in the labour market. The SAO audited the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) and selected beneficiaries of subsidies. Fourteen projects out of sixty-eight were examined. The volume of audited funds amounted to CZK 40 million. The SAO found that the subsidies contributed only insignificantly to the fulfilment of their purpose: only 8% of the audited funds was fit for the purpose in all key issues. Only 14% of organisations continued to implement specific measures, with financial support from the OPE, after the concluded audit. The MoLSA did not monitor the real benefits of the subsidies and set the conditions for their treatment in such a way that the beneficiaries could use the money without it being clear what objectives they wish to achieve. In four projects, the SAO found ineligible expenditure amounting to CZK 1.6 million.
The purpose of the financial aid was, inter alia, to reduce the pay gap and the risk of harassment in the workplace, to reduce unequal access to jobs (the so-called glass ceiling or glass wall) or to facilitate the reconciliation of work and private life. However, the SAO audit showed that the projects were mainly focused on gender awareness and, for some employers, led to the introduction of internal rules. As a result, the SAO found that only 8% of the audited amount of funds contributed, or at least had the potential to contribute, to achieving the purpose of the aid in all these key issues.
Although there has long been a significant gender pay gap in the Czech Republic for the same type of work, in more than one quarter of the audited organisations this topic has not been examined at all. There were paradoxical situations in which organisations which volunteered to be audited, refused to provide information on remuneration for various work positions, although the aim of the audit was to rectify the identified shortcomings or weaknesses.
As the SAO further found, the MoLSA approved the applications for aid even though it did not know the identity of the audited organisation. This concerned 54% of the organisations in the selected sample of projects. As a result, some of the organisations chosen for the audit previously publicly declared their commitment to equality and non-discrimination policies, or received awards for enabling equal opportunities. For example, the winner of the 10th edition of the ‘Institution of the Year – Respect for Equal Opportunities’ competition was audited. In addition, in 11% of the cases, a completely different organisation than the one mentioned in the aid application was audited.
Although gender audits should most often be carried out by an independent organisation not linked to the audited entity, only 11% of the cases were not interconnected. Furthermore, the SAO revealed that in 56% of the cases the audit was carried out by the same organisation which was then further involved in the proposal to address the identified deficiencies, as well as in the implementation of the proposed measures, and finally participated in the evaluation of the successfulness of the project.
According to the SAO, the MoLSA provided a maximum amount of subsidy for gender audits, irrespective of the scope of work actually carried out. For example, one grant beneficiary reported 64 hours for assessing gender equality in the audited organisation’s public documents. It turned out that the only ‘public documents’ were the organisation’s website and Facebook, which, moreover, did not contain any information on gender equality.
Training sessions funded by the MoLSA were not gender-related in a number of cases. Sometimes it was even unnecessary for certain staff members. For example, a construction company with 10 employees, five of whom were engaged in labour or technical professions, organised 19 training sessions for a total of CZK 503,000 over two years which were dedicated to topics unrelated to gender equality, such as: presentation skills, self-management, time management, stress management.
The World Economic Forum 2022 report notes that despite a number of measures (including legislative measures) in the Czech Republic, gender inequalities persist, affecting all areas of social life. In a comparison of 35 European countries, the Czech Republic was ranked 29th. The Czech Government had already dealt with the issue of equal opportunities for women and men 25 years ago, when it approved the ‘Gender Action Plan’ in 1998.
Supreme Audit Office