Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform

Legal Rights – Employment

Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform
World Bank, 2019 :: 36 pages
PDF: https://openknowledge.worldbank.org/bitstream/handle/10986/31327/WBL2019.pdf
Overview
Much improvement has occurred over the past decade, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where the pace of reform is increasing, but persistent gaps remain. However, in the Middle East and North Africa, the pace of reform is occurring so slowly that the legal gender gap is only increasing as other regions reform at a faster pace.
This study develops new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal gender discrimination, and in turn how this affects economic outcomes such as women’s participation in the labor market. The ten-year timeseries shines a light on the size of the legal gender gap, how quickly it is closing and where there are regional patterns of reform.
By laying a roadmap for progress over time and identifying potential areas for reform, this study both celebrates the progress that has been achieved and emphasizes the work that remains. To build on this work, the timeseries developed here will be extended in order to further research on the interaction between inequality of opportunity for women and labor market dynamics.

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Press Release
Despite Gains, Women Face Setbacks in Legal Rights Affecting Work
Reforms have improved women’s economic inclusion but gaps remain, ten-year study shows
WASHINGTON, February 27, 2019— Globally, women are accorded only three-quarters of the legal rights that men enjoy according to a new index released by the World Bank today, constraining their ability to get jobs or start businesses and make economic decisions that are best for them and their families.

“If women have equal opportunities to reach their full potential, the world would not only be fairer, it would be more prosperous as well,” said World Bank Group Interim President Kristalina Georgieva. “Change is happening, but not fast enough, and 2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men. It is paramount that we remove the barriers that hold women back, and with this report we aim to demonstrate that reforms are possible, and to accelerate change.”

The index, introduced in the study Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform, looks at milestones in a woman’s working life, from starting a job through to getting a pension, and legal protections associated with each of these stages. The data spans a ten-year period where 187 countries are scored according to eight indicators.

Achieving gender equality is not a short-term process, requiring strong political will and a concerted effort by governments, civil society, international organizations among others, but legal and regulatory reforms can play a foundational role as an important first step.

Progress over the last ten years in the areas measured by the index has been significant. During this time, the global average has risen from 70 to 75. 131 economies have made 274 reforms to laws and regulations that improve women’s economic inclusion. 35 countries implemented legal protections against sexual harassment at work, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago. 22 economies removed restrictions on women’s work, reducing the likelihood that women are kept out of working in certain sectors of the economy. And 13 economies introduced laws mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value.

Six economies – Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden – now hold perfect scores of 100, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas. A decade ago, no economy could make that claim. Under this index, economies that conducted reforms experienced bigger increases in the percentage of women working overall, leading to women’s economic empowerment.

Despite these efforts, women in many parts of the world still face discriminatory laws and regulations at every point in their working life. Fifty-six countries – spanning all regions and income levels – enacted no reforms at all to improve women’s equality of opportunity over the ten-year period. The pace of reform was the slowest in the category of managing assets – examining gender differences in property rights.

The study develops new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination, and in turn how this affects economic outcomes such as women’s participation in the labor market. The new index aims to lay a roadmap for progress over time and identify potential areas where more work is needed, to inspire reforms that benefit gender equality…