Although most of the world countries are heading towards legal gender equality, the steps taken in this direction are very slow according to estimates revealed in an important World Bank report. This study ensures that at present, only six countries grant equal rights to men and women.
The study states that this means an increase from zero when compared to the statistics of ten years ago when the organization began to evaluate countries by the effectiveness with which they guarantee legal and economic equality between both genders.
The study index entitled “Women, Business and Law 2019: A Decade of Reforms” is the result of the compilation of 35 indicators collected in 187 countries in the last decade to evaluate the equality of rights between men and women.
Only Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden got 100 total score in the bank’s report.
According to the study, the Latin American performance improved by reducing the level of inequality from 75.40 to 79.09 in the last decade, ranking second in the emerging economies.
From those nations, France experienced the greatest improvement in the last decade by implementing a domestic violence law, imposing criminal penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace and introducing paid parental leave.
But Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa averaged a score of 47.37 which means that the average nation in those regions gives women less than half of the legal rights granted to men in areas measured by the multinational organization.
The study aimed to develop a better understanding of how women’s employment and entrepreneurship are affected by legal discrimination, highlighting how women should deal with discriminatory laws and regulations which limit their opportunities. It did not measure the social and cultural factors, or the effectiveness with which laws were enforced.
The criteria analyzed were: Going places, Starting a job, Getting paid, Getting married, Having children, Running a business, Managing assets and Getting a pension. Examples of questions were: Can a woman travel outside her home in the same way as a man? or, Are there any laws that consider domestic violence?
In general, the global average reached 74.71, which means an increase of more than four and a half points compared to the figure of last decade. But the score indicates that in average nations, women receive only three-quarters of the legal rights that men get.
The United States obtained a score of 83.75, ranking out of the top 50 globally. The United Kingdom scored 97.5, Germany got 91.88 and Australia scored 96.88.
“If women had an equal (to men) to achieve their full potential, the world would be not only more just, but also more prosperous,” said World Bank Group interim president, Kristalina Georgieva.
(1/3) Our new #WomenBizLaw index says progress over a decade has been significant. 131 economies have made 274 reforms to laws & regulations that improve women’s #economicinclusion and global average score improved from 70 to 75 https://t.co/RPsqXKWLnE pic.twitter.com/yVG2ouZiFX
— Kristalina Georgieva (@KGeorgieva) February 27, 2019
She admitted that a change is taking place, but not fast enough and meanwhile “2.7 billion women do not have the same choices as men in matters of employment”, she said.
The study is the last to highlight the economic benefits of guaranteeing legal gender equality.
According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, published in 2015, closing the gender gap in the labor force could add $ 28 billion to the global GDP that is almost as large as the US and Chinese economies combined.
Laws restrain women
The United States performed especially poorly in the category of “having children”, with only 20 points. The criteria analyzed maternity, paternity and parental leave legislation.
“Policymakers interested in keeping women from dropping out the labor force after they have children can look at their economy´s scores in this indicator as a starting point for reform,” the report states.
As stated by the report, Saudi Arabia’s overall score is 25.63, which was the worst in the world, while Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Qatar and Iran scored below 35.
But the study highlighted more positive trends in southern and eastern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These three regions are the ones that showed more improvement compared to their status 10 years ago.
The country that improved the most was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had a score of 42.50 10 years ago but measured 70 in 2017, which was the analysis final date.
The report states that this improvement was based, in part, on reforms which allow married women to register businesses, open bank accounts, sign contracts, obtain jobs and choose where to live the same way as men. The legal requirement that wives must obey their husbands was also eliminated in the country.
It also found that most of the leading reformers introduced laws against sexual harassment or compulsory non-discrimination in access to credit, and that a third of the main reforming economies eliminated labor restrictions in night shifts or in certain types of work.
KristalinaGeorgievawrote that gender equality is a critical element of economic growth and that women are significant part of world’s population, so they have an important role to play in creating a more prosperous world, but they will not succeed if the laws hold them back.
She stressed in the report that many laws and regulations continue to prevent women from entering the workforce or starting a business and that discrimination can have lasting effects on women´s economic inclusion and participation in the labor force Therefore, they should encourage governments to ensure their full and equal participation.
The World Bank stated on Twitter that the new index identifies possible labor areas to encourage the adoption of reforms that may help the gender equality cause.
Translated by: Jose Espinoza