Women’s access to employment and economic opportunity depends on many factors, from underlying economic conditions to social norms. This Interactive highlights one critical precondition for women’s economic participation: equality under the law.
The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2018 report presents data on close to 170 gender inequalities in legal treatment in 189 countries, grouped into seven categories: accessing institutions, building credit, getting a job, going to court, protecting women from violence, providing incentives to work, and using property. The World Bank then scored countries on a narrower list of fifty legal gender inequalities selected from the full dataset.
For completeness, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) added to this list an additional six legal gender inequalities from the World Bank data set, selected because of their significance to women’s rights and opportunities. CFR then calculated a ranking of countries, giving each an overall average score between 0 and 100 (100 being the best).
Women’s Workforce Equality – Global Index
This report measures the formal legal obstacles to women’s economic participation around the world. While there is often a large gap between laws on the books and their implementation, formal legal equality is a critical first step to closing the gap between women and men in the economy. All the top-ranked countries score at least a 90 out of 100 on protecting women’s access to institutions and their use of property. Many countries miss the mark on protecting women from violence, providing incentives to work, and eliminating barriers to jobs. No country gets a perfect score on women’s workplace equality, but Australia comes closest, with a score of 94.9 out of 100.
Most countries still have laws that make it harder for women to work than men. This inequality shortchanges not only women but also entire economies.
Women’s Workforce Inequality – 60 Data points
– 18 countries require women to have their husband’s permission to work outside the home.
– 59 countries provide no legal protection whatsoever against sexual harassment in the workplace.
– 75 countries restrict women’s property rights.
– 104 countries restrict the kinds of jobs women can hold.
– 19 countries legally require married women to obey their husbands.
– 37 countries restrict women from applying for a passport in the same way as men.
– 11 countries prohibit women from obtaining a national identification card in the same way as men.
– 6 countries restrict women from traveling abroad in the same way as men.
– 17 countries prevent women from traveling outside the home in the same way as men.
– 18 countries prohibit women from getting a job or pursuing a trade or profession in the same way as men.
– 1 country bars women from signing a contract in the same way as men.
– 4 countries restrict women from registering a business in the same way as men.
– 3 countries prevent women from opening a bank account in the same way as men.
– 31 countries restrict women from choosing where to live in the same way as men.
– 31 countries bar women from being head of the household or head of the family in the same way as men.
– 24 countries restrict women from conferring citizenship on children in the same way as men.
– 9 countries dictate that only husbands—not wives—can legally administer marital property.
– 55 countries do not account for the valuation of nonmonetary contributions to the household.
– 13 countries restrict women and men from having equal property-ownership rights.
– 39 countries prevent daughters from having the same rights as sons to inherit assets from their parents.
– 36 countries do not grant female surviving spouses equal rights to inherit assets as males have.
– 16 countries do not consider women’s testimony to carry the same evidentiary weight in court as men’s.
– 69 countries do not mandate legal aid in civil and family matters.
– 96 countries have not established an anti-discrimination commission.
– 75 countries do not guarantee mothers an equivalent position after taking maternity leave.
– In 54 countries, the government does not provide childcare services.
– In 15 countries, specific tax deductions and tax credits are applicable only to men.
– In 156 countries, payments for childcare are not tax-deductible.
– In 18 countries, primary education is not free and compulsory.
– 118 countries do not mandate employers to provide leave for employees to care for sick relatives.
– 117 countries do not prohibit discrimination by creditors on the basis of sex or gender.
– 153 countries do not prohibit discrimination by creditors on the basis of marital status.
– 12 countries do not have legally mandated paid maternity leave.
– In 86 countries, the government does not pay the full cost of maternity leave benefits.
– In 86 countries, differences in legally mandated paid leave for men and women create a burden on employers.
– 147 countries do not have legally mandated paid parental leave.
– 98 countries do not have legally mandated paid paternity leave.
– 113 countries do not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value.
– 41 countries do not mandate nondiscrimination in employment based on gender.
– 37 countries do not prohibit the dismissal of pregnant workers.
– 155 countries prevent parents from working flexibly.
– In 29 countries, women cannot work the same night hours as men.
– In 56 countries, women cannot work in jobs deemed hazardous, arduous, or morally inappropriate in the same way as men.
– In 70 countries, women are not allowed to work in the same industries as men.
– In 66 countries, women are not allowed to perform the same tasks at work as men.
– In 41 countries, the ages at which men and women can retire with full pension benefits are not equal.
– In 13 countries, the ages at which men and women can retire with partial pension benefits are not equal.
– In 10 countries, the mandatory retirement age for men and women is not equal.
– In 45 countries, domestic violence is not legally prohibited.
– In 59 countries, there is no law prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace.
– In 123 countries, there is no law prohibiting sexual harassment in schools.
– In 110 countries, there are no criminal penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace.
– In 100 countries, there are no civil remedies for sexual harassment in the workplace.
– In 111 countries, there is no law explicitly criminalizing marital rape.
– In 72 countries, there are no clear criminal penalties for domestic violence.
– In 4 countries, the legal age of marriage for girls is below eighteen.
– 58 countries lack a small-claims court or fast-track procedure for small claims, which small businesses (often owned by women) use to speed up and reduce the cost of court proceedings.
– 132 countries do not mandate retailers to provide information to private credit bureaus or public credit registries, impeding women from building their credit histories to access finance.
– 129 countries do not mandate utility companies to provide information to private credit bureaus or public credit registries, impeding women from building their credit histories to access finance.
– In 23 countries, women receive less than two-thirds of their wages for the first fourteen weeks of their leave, or for the duration of the leave if it is shorter.