London, September 24, 2013 —A new
World Bank and IFC report finds legal and regulatory barriers to women’s
economic inclusion have decreased over the past 50 years globally, but
many laws still hinder women’s participation in the economy. Laws restricting
women’s economic activity are currently most prevalent in the Middle East
and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The third in a series, Women, Business and the Law 2014: Removing
Restrictions to Enhance Gender Equality monitors regulations affecting
women entrepreneurs and employees in 143 economies. This edition highlights
reforms carried out over the past two years, examines the evolution of
women’s property rights and legal decision making ability since 1960 and
expands coverage to examine legal protections addressing violence against
“The ideal of equality before the law and equality of economic opportunity
isn’t just wise social policy: It’s smart economic policy,” said World
Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “When women and men participate
in economic life on an equal footing, they can contribute their energies
to building a more cohesive society and a more resilient economy. The surest
way to help enrich the lives of families, communities and economies is
to allow every individual to live up to her or his fullest creative potential.”
“Our latest edition of Women, Business and the Law shows that many
societies have made progress, gradually moving to dismantle ingrained forms
of discrimination against women,” said Kim. “Yet a great deal remains
to be done.”
This report finds 44 economies have made 48 legal changes, thus increasing
women’s economic opportunities over the past two years. Côte d’Ivoire,
Mali, the Philippines and the Slovak Republic had the most reforms. Among
the reforms, husbands can no longer unilaterally stop their wives from
working in Côte d’Ivoire and Mali, the Philippines has lifted restrictions
on night work for women, and the Slovak Republic increased the percentage
of wages paid during maternity leave.
The report finds economies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have
the most extensive lists of jobs women cannot do. For example, in the Russian
Federation women cannot drive trucks in the agricultural sector, in Belarus
they cannot be carpenters and in Kazakhstan they cannot be welders. These
restrictions may have arisen from a desire to protect women, but can limit
their employment options. The report shows economies with the most job
restrictions on women have lower female participation in the formal labor
"Progress on gender equality under the law is accelerating,"
said Augusto Lopez-Claros, Director, Global Indicators and Analysis,
World Bank Group. “Our data shows that over the past 50 years countries
everywhere have started removing long-standing restrictions on women's
ability to participate more fully in the economy. Although the progress
has been uneven across the world, there is widespread recognition that
the economic empowerment of women is crucial for competitiveness and prosperity."
Between 1960 and 2010, more than half the restrictions on women’s property
rights and ability to conduct legal transactions were removed in the 100
economies examined. Restrictions in three regions – Sub-Saharan Africa,
Latin America and the Caribbean, and East Asia and the Pacific – were
cut in half. While some restrictions were removed in South Asia and in
the Middle East and North Africa, these two regions reformed the least.
Another major innovation in the report is new data on the existence and
scope of laws on two areas of violence against women: sexual harassment
and domestic violence. Covering 100 economies, the data show that prohibitions
against sexual harassment in the workplace are widespread – 78 economies
have legislation and over half of these criminalize the behavior. Legislation
on domestic violence is also widespread –76 economies have laws prohibiting
domestic violence. The region with the fewest laws on domestic violence
is the Middle East and North Africa.
The report shows lower gender legal parity is associated with fewer women
participating in firm ownership, while policies encouraging women to join
and remain in the labor force are associated with greater income equality.
Even though the report offers signs of improvement for women’s economic
opportunities globally, it shows economies can do more to ensure women’s
participation in economic life.
About the Women, Business and the Law Report series:
Women, Business and the Law measures how laws, regulations and institutions
differentiate between women and men in ways that may affect women’s incentives
or capacity to work or to set up and run a business. It analyzes legal
differences on the basis of gender in 143 economies, covering six areas:
gaining access to institutions, using property, getting a job, providing
incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. The project provides
a clear picture of gender gaps based on legal differences in each economy,
but it does not capture the full extent of the gender gap, nor does it
indicate the relative importance of each aspect covered. This year’s report
was published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
About the World Bank Group
The World Bank Group is one of the world’s largest sources of funding
and development expertise for developing countries. It comprises five closely
associated institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA),
which together form the World Bank; the International Finance Corporation
(IFC); the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA); and the International
Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Each institution
plays a distinct role in pursuing the World Bank Group’s mission to fight
poverty and improve living standards for people in the developing world.
For more information, please visit www.worldbank.org,
For more information on the report and its findings, please visit: wbl.worldbank.org.
For more information on the historic time-series data, please visit: wbl.worldbank.org/TimeSeries
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