Nearly 2.4 billion women globally don’t have same economic rights as men – says new report

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 2 March 2022:

According to a new report published yesterday by the World Bank, around 2.4 billion women of working age are not afforded equal economic opportunity and 178 countries maintain legal barriers that prevent their full economic participation. The World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2022” report says that in 86 countries, women face some form of job restriction; and 95 countries do not guarantee equal pay for equal work.

Globally, women still have only three quarters of the legal rights afforded to men – an aggregate score of 76.5 out of a possible 100, which denotes complete legal parity. However, despite the disproportionate effect on women’s lives and livelihood from the global pandemic, 23 countries reformed their laws in 2021 to take much-needed steps towards advancing women’s economic inclusion, according to the report.

“While progress has been made, the gap between men’s and women’s expected lifetime earnings globally is US$172 trillion – nearly two times the world’s annual GDP,” said Mari Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships. “As we move forward to achieve green, resilient and inclusive development, governments need to accelerate the pace of legal reforms so that women can realize their full potential and benefit fully and equally.”

Women, Business and the Law 2022 measures laws and regulations across 190 countries in eight areas impacting women’s economic participation – mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pensions. The data offer objective and measurable benchmarks for global progress toward gender equality. Just 12 countries, all part of the OECD, have legal gender parity.

New this year is a 95-country pilot survey of laws governing childcare – a critical area where support is needed for women to succeed in paid employment. A pilot analysis of how laws affecting women’s economic empowerment are actually implemented is also included, highlighting the difference between laws on the books and the reality experienced by women.

The Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa regions showed the largest improvements in the WBL Index in 2021, though they continue to lag behind other parts of the world overall. Gabon stands out with comprehensive reforms to its civil code and the enactment of a law on the elimination of violence against women. Gabon’s score rose from 57.5 in 2020 to 82.5 in 2021.

Globally, the highest number of reforms were made in the Parenthood, Pay, and Workplace indicators. Many reforms focused on protecting against sexual harassment in employment, prohibiting gender discrimination, increasing paid leave for new parents, and removing job restrictions for women. The Pay and Parenthood indicators have the lowest average scores in the index, but they have increased in the last year, rising 0.9 and 0.7 points, respectively, with average scores of 68.7 and 55.6.

The gains in the Parenthood indicator have largely been around paternity leave and shared parental leave, but the low score highlights the need to accelerate reforms in this area.

“Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace if they are on an unequal footing at home,” said Carmen Reinhart, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank Group. “That means leveling the playing field and ensuring that having children doesn’t mean women are excluded from full participation in the economy and realizing their hopes and ambitions.”

Across the world, 118 economies guarantee 14 weeks of paid leave for mothers. More than half (114) of the economies measured mandate paid leave for fathers, but the median duration is just one week.

In the past year, Hong Kong SAR, China – which previously provided 10 weeks of paid maternity leave – introduced the recommended 14-week minimum duration. Armenia, Switzerland, and Ukraine introduced paid paternity leave. Colombia, Georgia, Greece, and Spain introduced paid parental leave, which offer both parents some form of paid leave to care for a child following birth. Laws promoting paid leave for fathers can reduce discrimination in the workplace and improve work-life balance.

Women, Business and the Law 2022 introduces pilot research behind two new areas: legal environment for childcare services and implementation of laws. A growing number of economies are investing in childcare to enhance children’s skills and recognize unpaid care work by women, who often take on more caregiving duties.

The pilot research analyzed laws in 95 economies and finds that most OECD high income and Europe and Central Asia economies regulate public childcare services while in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regulations mandate the private sector or employers to provide care services for children of working parents.

To make childcare more affordable and widely used, some countries offer financial support to parents or childcare providers. The research also looked at quality aspects regulated such as teacher-to-child ratio, maximum group sizes, training requirements for teachers, as well as licensing, inspections and reporting requirements for service providers. More evidence is needed on what constitutes good quality and what aspects of quality might determine parental uptake of services.

This edition also explores the operation of Women, Business and the Law indicators in practice in 25 economies. An analysis of the laws’ implementation schemes reveals a substantial gap between legislation on the books and legal operation. Laws alone are not enough to improve gender equality; factors at play include not only their implementation and enforcement, but also social, cultural, and religious norms. These gaps will be further explored in future cycles of Women, Business and the Law
reports.

Regional Highlights

Sub-Saharan Africa:

Sub-Saharan Africa has a wide range of performance on the Women, Business and the Law index, ranging from 89.4 in Mauritius to 29.4 in Sudan. The region implemented comprehensive reforms, achieving the second highest improvement in the index last year. Gabon stands out, with comprehensive reforms to its civil code and the enactment of a law on the elimination of violence against women.

These reforms gave women the same rights to choose where to live as men, get jobs without permission from their husbands, removed the requirement for married women to obey their husbands and allows women to be head of household in the same way as men.

Gabon granted spouses equal rights to immovable property and equal administrative authority over assets during marriage. Gabon also enacted legislation protecting women from domestic violence. Gabon’s reforms gave women the same rights to open a bank account as men and prohibited gender-based discrimination in financial services.

Also in the Africa region, Angola enacted legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in employment. Benin removed restrictions on women’s employment in construction, so that women can now work in all the same jobs in the same way as men. Burundi mandated equal remuneration for work of equal value.

Sierra Leone made access to credit easier for women by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in financial services. Togo introduced new legislation which no longer prohibits the dismissal of pregnant workers, reducing women’s economic opportunities.

  • The regional average score is 71.5, women in Africa have less than three-quarters of the legal rights of men.
  • Of the region’s 48 economies, two are among the world’s top 50 scoring economies – Mauritius (score 89.4) and South Africa (88.1).
  • Economies in the Sub-Saharan Africa region perform well in the areas of Mobility (average score of 83.9), Workplace (80.7) and Pension (80.2).
  • In Mobility, for example, 25 out of the 48 economies in the region (52%) score 100. These perfect scores show that these economies have enacted laws that mandate equal right to apply for a passport, travel outside the country or the home and choose where to live.
  • In Workplace, only 5 of the 48 economies (10%) do not prohibit discrimination in employment based on gender. Angola enacted legislation protecting women from sexual harassment in employment and adopted criminal penalties for sexual harassment in employment. However, 11 economies in the region still do not have such legislation. The Sub-Saharan Africa region performs well (80.7), slightly above the global average (80.5) on this indicator.
  • Five of the region’s 48 economies (Angola, Benin, Burundi, Gabon, and Sierra Leone) reformed towards gender equality in the past year. One economy, Togo, introduced a legal change that reduced women’s economic opportunities. Its new labor law no longer contains a prohibition on dismissal of pregnant women.  Most reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa were captured by the Pay and Workplace
    • Angola introduced legislation protecting women from sexual harassment in employment and adopted criminal penalties for sexual harassment in employment. It now scores 100 on Workplace indicator, together with 29 other economies in the region.
    • Benin removed restrictions on women’s employment in construction. Women can now work in industrial jobs in the same way as men.
    • Burundi reached 100 on the Pay indicator by mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value. Now 15 of the 48 economies (31%) score 100 under the Pay
    • Gabon enacted five reforms, increasing its average score from 57.5 to 82.5. Notably, Gabon reached 100 on Assets by granting spouses equal rights to immovable property and equal administrative authority over assets during marriage. Now 17 of the 48 economies (35%) score 100 under the Assets Gabon also reached 100 on Entrepreneurship by allowing women to open a bank account in the same way as men and making access to credit easier for women by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in financial services. Now 12 of the 48 economies (25%) score 100 under the Entrepreneurship indicator. Lastly, Gabon reached 100 on Workplace by allowing a woman to get a job without permission from her husband.
    • Sierra Leone reached 100 on Entrepreneurship by legally prohibiting gender-based discrimination in financial services, making access to credit easier for women.
  • Challenges remain especially in the area of Parenthood, where the regional average score is 45.
    • No economy in the region scores 100 on this indicator.
    • Scores for the region range from 0 to 80, with 28 economies out of the 48 economies of the region (58%) granting paid leave to fathers.
    • Of the 50 economies worldwide with paid parental leave, none is in Sub-Saharan Africa where the average leave granted to fathers was 2.7 days in 2021.
    • Togo introduced new legislation which no longer prohibits the dismissal of pregnant workers.

WBL Index – Sub-Saharan Africa

Economy Reforms Reform: Indicator
Angola 79.4 2 Reform: Workplace
Benin 80.6 1 Reform: Pay
Botswana 63.8
Burkina Faso 82.5
Burundi 76.3 Reform: Pay
Cabo Verde 86.3
Cameroon 60.0
Central African Republic 76.9
Chad 66.3
Comoros 65.0
Congo, Dem. Rep. 78.8
Congo, Rep. 49.4
Côte d’Ivoire 83.1
Equatorial Guinea 51.9
Eritrea 69.4
Eswatini 46.3
Ethiopia 76.9
Gabon 82.5 9 Reforms: Mobility; Workplace; Marriage (3); Entrepreneurship (2); Assets (2)
Gambia, The 69.4
Ghana 75.0
Guinea 73.8
Guinea-Bissau 42.5
Kenya 80.6
Lesotho 78.1
Liberia 81.3
Madagascar 71.9
Malawi 77.5
Mali 60.6
Mauritania 48.1
Mauritius 89.4
Mozambique 82.5
Namibia 86.3
Niger 56.9
Nigeria 63.1
Rwanda 83.8
São Tomé and Príncipe 83.1
Senegal 66.9
Seychelles 76.3
Sierra Leone 72.5 1 Reform: Entrepreneurship
Somalia 46.9
South Africa 88.1
South Sudan 67.5
Sudan 29.4
Tanzania 81.3
Togo 81.9 1 Neg Change: Parenthood
Uganda 73.1
Zambia 81.3
Zimbabwe 86.9

Source: Women, Business and the Law database.

Note: The scores are based on the average of each economy’s scores for the 8 topics included in this year’s aggregate score. A higher score indicates more gender-equal laws.

Advanced Economies:

Advanced economies continue to make progress on the indicators. Greece, Spain and Switzerland reformed laws in 2021, all focusing on improving paid leave for new parents. Twelve advanced economies are the world’s only economies that score 100 – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

East Asia and the Pacific:

The East Asia and the Pacific region continues to reform its legislation towards gender equality, but at a slow pace. Two economies from East Asia reformed last year. Cambodia introduced an old-age pension system that sets equal ages at which women and men can retire with full pension benefits. Vietnam eliminated all restrictions on women’s employment.

Europe and Central Asia:

The Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region is the second highest scoring region, with an average score of 84.1. Four economies reformed last year. Armenia and Ukraine introduced paid paternity leave, and Georgia introduced paid parental leave. Ukraine also equalized the ages at which women and men can retire with full pension benefits. Cyprus allowed women to apply for a passport in the same way as men.

Important challenges remain in the areas of Pay and Pension which have the lowest average scores in this region. For example, almost half of the economies in ECA do not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value, and the ages for full pension benefits are still unequal in 17 economies.

Latin America and the Caribbean:

Women in Latin America and the Caribbean have less than threequarters of the legal rights of men. Two of the region’s 32 economies enacted reforms in the past year. Argentina explicitly accounted for periods of absence due to childcare in pension benefits. Colombia became the first country in Latin America to introduce paid parental leave, aiming to reduce discrimination against women in the workplace. Only half of the economies in the region guarantee any paid leave for fathers.

Middle East and North Africa:

Women in the Middle East and North Africa have, on average, only half of the legal rights that men do. However, the region improved its laws the most due to reforms in five economies. Bahrain mandated equal pay for work of equal value and lifted restrictions on women’s ability to work at night. It also repealed provisions giving the relevant authority the power to prohibit or restrict women from working in certain jobs or industries.

Egypt enacted legislation protecting women from domestic violence and made access to credit easier for women by prohibiting gender-based discrimination in financial services. Kuwait prohibited gender discrimination in employment and adopted legislation on sexual harassment in employment. Lebanon enacted legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in employment. Oman allowed women to apply for a passport in the same way as men.

South Asia:

Women in South Asia have only two-thirds of the legal rights of men in the region. Only one economy in the region reformed, and with mixed results. Pakistan lifted restrictions on women’s ability to work at night. At the same time, Pakistan did not convert into law a decree that would permanently equalize men’s and women’s ability to register a business.

You can read the full report here:

GLOBAL REPORT ON WOMEN, BUSINESS AND THE LAW 2022

 

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