Women’s legal rights are far behind men’s: World Bank

Daily News Egypt
3 Min Read

A new World Bank Group report reveals that the global gender gap for women in the workplace is much wider than previously thought. Women have less than two-thirds the legal rights of men when it comes to safety from violence and access to childcare services. These are two new indicators that the report added to measure how laws affect women’s opportunities. No country gives women equal opportunity—not even the richest ones.

The report, titled “Women, Business, and the Law”, shows the barriers that women face in joining the global workforce and boosting prosperity—for themselves, their families, and their communities. It also compares the legal reforms and the actual outcomes for women in 190 economies. The results are shocking. Laws on the books suggest that women have about two-thirds the rights of men, but in reality, countries have only implemented less than 40% of the systems needed to enforce those laws. For example, only 35 economies—less than one-fifth—have measures or mechanisms to address the pay gap between men and women.

The report highlights the need for more action even in countries that have passed equal-opportunity laws.

In 2023, governments made progress in three areas of legal equal-opportunity reforms—pay, parental rights, and workplace protections. However, they failed in the two new areas—childcare and safety.

Women’s safety is the weakest area—where the global average score is only 36, meaning women have barely a third of the legal protections they need against domestic violence, sexual harassment, child marriage, and femicide. While 151 economies ban sexual harassment in the workplace, only 39 ban it in public spaces. This can stop women from using public transportation to get to work.

Childcare is another poor area. Women do 2.4 more hours of unpaid care work than men every day—mostly for children. More childcare options can increase women’s labour force participation by about 1 percentage point at first—and more than double it in five years. But today, only 78 economies—less than half—give some financial or tax support to parents with young children. And only 62 economies—less than a third—have quality standards for childcare services, which can make women hesitate to work while their children are in someone else’s care.

Women also face many other challenges. For instance, in entrepreneurship, only one in every five economies requires gender-sensitive criteria for public procurement processes, which means women miss out on a $10trn-a-year economic opportunity. In pay, women make only 77 cents for every $1 men make. And in retirement, women have smaller pension benefits and more financial insecurity than men. This is because 62 economies have different retirement ages for men and women, and women tend to live longer, earn less, and take more career breaks than men.

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