Fossil Fuel Subsidies and Gender

A large body of evidence finds that fossil-fuel subsidies are bad for poverty reduction, the environment and fiscal sustaianability—and are therefore in need of reform. But most analyis of fuel subsidies are their reform is focused on "the household". At the level of individual people, there is little data on the way that energy subsidy policy may affect women and men differently. Do reforms need to reflect the different uses of energy by women and men? If so, how? And can reform be used as an opportunity to reduce gender inequality?

In order to fill in this knowledge gap, the Global Subsidies Initiative has formed a research consortium with the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), Integrated Research for Action and Development (IRADe) and Space for Change (S4C) to explore these issues internationally and in Bangladesh, India and Nigeria. 

The research aims to: 

  • Identify examples of best practice globally in energy sector reform policies that empower women
  • Generate data on the gendered impacts of fossil-fuel subsidies, particularly household fuel subsidies (kerosene and LPG) and linkages with energy access
  • Explore how specific nationally feasible reforms to household fuel subsidies might affect women and men differently and create opportunities to improve gender equality
  • Provide evidence-based recommendations on how countries can pursue gender-sensitive reforms

As part of its on-going program of research and policy engagement, the consortium has produced the following research papers:


August 2016

Gender and Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform: Current Status of Research (PDF - 1.6 MB)

The report explores existing knowledge on energy subsidy reforms and gender through a review of literature. First, it sets out the global context of energy subsidies, energy access and gender empowerment. It then reviews literature on gender, energy access, fossil-fuel subsidies and mitigation measures related to subsidy reform, such as cash transfers. Finally, it provides an overview of these issues across the consortium's three focus countries: Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, as well as case studies on Peru, Mexico and Morocco. The review concludes that subsidy reform is a significant opportunity for Sustainable Energy for All and that poorly performing subsidies are not beneficial for improverished women. At a national level, however, the removal of subsidies related to lighting and cooking fuels can negatively affect women's lives. As a result, governments should develop more information about the gendered impacts of reforms and, in the meantime, adopt a "precautionary principle", ensuring that reform plans are designed to safeguard women's access to clean household energy sources.


March 2016

Making Subsidy Reform Work for Women in Nigeria (PDF – 1.4 MB)

It is well understood that increasing fuel product prices can be a shock for low-income households, requiring careful mitigation strategies to ensure that subsidy reform does not harm the most vulnerable. But little research has been conducted on understanding the gender disaggregated impacts of subsidy reform: How do price increases affect individual men and women? Do impacts differ in accordance with the linkages between gender roles and energy use? This policy brief summarizes initial research on this topic in Nigeria, focusing on how women may be affected by the reform of subsidies to kerosene, which is widely used across the country as a cooking and lighting fuel.


For an initial GSI exploration of the linkages between gender and fossil-fuel subsidy reform in India, see Power, Gender and Fossil-Fuel Subsidy Reform in India (PDF – 1.66 MB).

For more information on policy research related to gender at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), see: 

This program of work is funded by ENERGIA, the International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy, and the UK Department for International Development (DfID). For more information about ENERGIA's work on gender and energy policy, see: