How the Legal Status of Women Impacts Gender Economic Equality

Despite decades of progress in addressing gender discrimination, women across the globe face persistent legal barriers to participating in the economy on an equal basis with men, according to a new study of data collected by the World Bank.

The study, based on the World Bank Group’s newly compiled “Women, Business and the Law” database, provides the first global picture of how discriminatory laws continue to restrict women’s economic opportunities. It documents large and persistent legal gender inequalities, particularly with regards to equal pay and parenting. The study, “Gendered Laws and Women in the Workforce,” will be published in the American Economic Review.

The dataset measured equality of economic opportunity under the law between men and women in 190 countries from 1970 until today. It covers national laws that affect women’s ability to make a living and provide for their families. Each country was scored in eight categories, measuring laws concerning women’s pay, pensions, marriages, freedom of movement, decisions to find work, and ability to run a business, manage assets, and hold jobs after having children.

The report found that, on average, women in 2019 had three-quarters of the legal economics rights of men. The results varied widely across regions, with the lowest regional average, 49.6, occurring in the Middle East and North Africa. The 37 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a forum of democratic nations with free-market economies, rated an average of 94.7 points. Eight countries — Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden — earned perfect scores. Sudan and Yemen were among the lowest-ranking countries, each receiving average scores of less than 30 points, according to the analysis.

“The amount of legal discrimination our analysis uncovered is surprising, given how far the world has come over the past 50 years,” said co-author Pinelope Goldberg, the Elihu Professor of Economics Yale University and former chief economist of the World Bank Group. “We hope this research inspires policymakers worldwide to initiate reforms and eliminate legal gender discrimination, which is a necessary first step in expanding economic opportunities for women.”

Dr. Goldberg is a graduate of the University of Freiburg in Germany. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply