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Second edition of the Compendium on Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs

14 June 2023

Eleven administrations contributed to the second edition of the Compendium on Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs. A short overview of their contributions is provided below.

Argentina Customs

Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Revenues (AFIP) presents Argentina’s regulations relating to gender and diversity, as well as the role and activities of its Directorate for the Coordination of Gender and Human Rights Policies, which was created in June 2020. AFIP has developed a Gender and Diversity Programme, among other things. This includes a two-phase training programme that starts with an introductory course on gender and human rights, and is followed by a workshop involving reflection on, and in-depth study of, concepts and practices that can lead to violence and discrimination. 75% of AFIP’s staff had completed this training by early 2023. Many other measures are mentioned, including paid leave for workers who are in a domestic violence situation to enable them to carry out necessary judicial and/or administrative procedures, the expansion of the choice of gender identities in its human resource system, by adding “trans”, for example, and the development of communication campaigns.

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)

CBSA shares some of the insights gained from its annual employee surveys, listening tours, consultation and engagement sessions, and formal reporting activities. It explains, for example, that, while the Listening Tour revealed that 81% of employees surveyed said they felt pride working for the CBSA, the Tour also revealed that this source of pride stemmed from an individual’s disposition towards the type of work they did, rather than the environment itself. The Tour also identified the CBSA’s need to better tell its story to the public and the media, especially as it faced increased criticism of its Customs and immigration handlings. CBSA also explains the mandate and activities of its many committees and bodies working on gender and diversity issues. It highlights a number of initiatives related to recruitment, including the launch of a targeted hiring process that is focused on improving diversity as well as a recruitment campaign specifically geared at women.

German Customs

In Germany, as required by law, the Central Customs Authority and its 41 main Customs offices and 8 Customs investigation offices each have their own Gender Equality Plan, based on a common internal framework; each office can also include additional topics that may be relevant to their local contexts. In line with Germany’s national law, again, German Customs has appointed Gender Equality Officers (GEO) in each office. By law, only women can vote for and become the GEO. The GEO is elected for a four-year term and is tasked with monitoring the implementation, execution and evaluation of measures and regulations, as well as advising the administration. Noting that women often lack the confidence to apply for certain positions and tend to struggle with work-life balance, the administration also has adopted an internal decree on the professional advancement of women. Several measures are mentioned. For example, if female employees are under-represented in a particular staff category, they are given preferential treatment in the career development process. The administration also assists employees with family or caring responsibilities to take part in training. For instance, the costs of childcare or other care responsibilities during the training period can be partially reimbursed.

Indonesia Customs

Indonesia Customs takes part in the gender mainstreaming competition which has been held annually since 2015 by the Ministry of Finance and is open to all its departments and regional offices. The process includes a pre-selection stage, during which units participating in the competition are required to submit a summary of relevant policies and activities in specific areas. This is followed by an on-site assessment of the unit’s infrastructure. The Juanda Customs and Excise Office was selected as the 2022 competition winner to represent the Customs administration with its Migrant Partner Programme, a Consultation and Service Centre targeting Indonesian Migrant Workers which aims at supporting Indonesian migrant workers, many of whom are women, to access and complete the required Customs procedures when they return to Indonesia.

Revenue – Irish Tax and Customs Administration

Revenue (the Irish Tax and Customs Administration) explains in detail how it addresses data gathering, establishes dialogue and engages staff, and uses a blended learning model to deliver training to build the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to eliminate discrimination, promote equality and protect human rights.

Mauritius Revenue Authority (MRA)

MRA approved an Equal Opportunities Policy in August 2018 and presents some of the measures taken to minimize the risk of discrimination against employees and promote recruitment, training, selection and employment on the basis of merit. In recent years, MRA has recruited an increasing number of female candidates, especially in its Customs unit, which was previously a male-dominated arena.

Peru Customs

SUNAT (the National Superintendency of Customs and Tax Administration) conducted a survey which showed that a large number of employees did not know what behaviours could be considered to be sexual harassment at work, or how to report such behaviours. SUNAT developed an e-learning course on this topic and made it mandatory for all staff. The training commenced in March 2022. As of June 2022, more than 2,500 members of staff had completed the course.

The South African Revenue Service (SARS)

SARS introduces several programmes it has established, including the Women in Leadership (WiL) programme and the SARS Junior Board. Among other things, the latter is mandated to provide insights and inputs so as to enrich SARS policies and accelerate positive and meaningful change, and to challenge conventional thinking and be the provocateurs of a different way of leading. SARS also presents actions taken to prevent gender-based violence and sexual harassment, encourage employees to speak up against any incidents, and provide support to victims. SARS is also working to ensure it includes persons with disabilities among its staff and responds to the needs of traders and taxpayers with disabilities. It has established a dedicated Unit to work on these issues, conducted a survey to identify needs, and sourced software, and provides services such as sign language interpretation to enable persons with disabilities to work for and be serviced by SARS, among other things.

Ukraine Customs

To coordinate the numerous initiatives related to the implementation of gender policy, Ukraine Customs established a Working Group on Gender Policy Implementation. Its first task was to analyse the degree to which the Customs authority was ensuring the principles of gender equality. To do this, members of the group followed training, conducted an anonymous survey among employees, and examined strategic documents, programmes and policies. Staff from Ukraine Customs also joined the WCO Virtual Group on Gender Equality and Diversity in January 2022 and WCO material such as the WCO Gender Equality Organizational Assessment Tool (GEOAT) has been translated into Ukrainian. Training is another key element of the administration’s GED policy, and it has developed an online training course on GED.

Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA)

In March 2020, the ZRA established its Women Leadership and Development Forum (WLDF) with the overall goal of ensuring that 50% of leadership positions at Director level and beyond were held by women by the year 2025. One of its first tasks was to develop a questionnaire to understand how female officers perceive the workplace and the challenges they face, as well as which measures are needed to support the development of their careers. One of the challenges highlighted by ZRA is how to make women realize their value and the career opportunities offered to them. ZRA also explains how it works with the WCO Secretariat to use the WCO GEOAT and to upskill its staff through training. 

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA)

ZIMRA launched the Women in Taxation (WiT) forum in March 2022. Composed of 100 women from all ZIMRA offices, this forum aims to provide a platform for women employees to discuss issues that affect them in the workplace. The challenges identified include working at border posts that are usually far away from family, staff transfers and maternity issues. As a result of discussions, ZIMRA is hoping to conduct some policy reviews to further implement gender-responsive measures. The policies that are under discussion include the development of a “transfer of nursing women” policy and a policy to prevent sexual harassment. WiT also plans to reach out to businesswomen to improve their knowledge of Customs and taxation policies and processes.

This second edition of the Compendium on Gender Equality and Diversity in Customs was funded by the United Kingdom’s HM Customs & Revenue (HMRC) under the framework of the WCO/HMRC Accelerate Trade Facilitation Programme. The Secretariat hopes that the experience and initiatives that it showcases will inspire other Customs administrations to take further action to become more gender responsive and inclusive. It also would like to encourage those administrations who have not done so yet to participate in the next edition of the Compendium.

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