Researchequal opportunities, law, work, work life balance

Women, business and the law: a decade of reform

Publication date: 03/2019
Authors: The World Bank


At 25 years old, many women are just starting their careers. The decisions they make affect their economic security, career growth and work-life balance. This challenging period is only made more difficult in economies where legal environments do not support a woman’s decision to work. For instance, a woman cannot effectively look for a job or go on an interview if she cannot leave her home without permission. Even if she can go on an interview, will an employer be willing to hire her? If she is hired, will she need to quit if she gets married or has children? If not, will she have to move to a lower paying job because she must balance work with caring for her family? And what if the law does not allow her to manage her own assets, affecting her ability to start a business? At the end of her career, she may have to retire earlier than a man, giving her a longer retirement but a smaller pension because she worked for fewer years with lower pay. Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform examines these questions by building a timeseries measuring gender discrimination across 187 economies over the past ten years. With the understanding that women’s access to employment and entrepreneurial activity is related to many factors, this study focuses on how women must navigate discriminatory laws and regulations at every point in their careers, limiting their equality of opportunity. To gain new insight into how women’s employment and entrepreneurship choices are affected by legal gender discrimination, this study examines ten years of Women, Business and the Law data through an index structured around the economic decisions women make as they go through different stages of their working lives. This perspective yields interesting results. Six economies — Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden — score 100 in the Women, Business and the Law index, meaning they give women and men equal legal rights in the measured areas. A decade ago none of these economies scored 100, indicating they all reformed over the past ten years.

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