Washington. - Legal barriers to the economic advancement of women are widespread, shutting them out of certain jobs, limiting their access to credit, and leaving them unprotected against violence in many economies around the world. This is the result of the World Bank Group's Women, Business and the Law 2016 report, released in Washington.
The report, which examines laws that impede women's employment and entrepreneurship, finds that women face job restrictions in 100 of the 173 economies monitored. For example, women are barred from working in certain factory jobs in 41 economies; in 29 economies they are prohibited from working at night; and in 18 economies they cannot get a job without permission from their husband. Only half of the economies covered have paternity leave, and less than a third have parental leave, limiting men's ability to share childcare responsibilities. In 30 economies, married women cannot choose where to live and in 19 they are legally obligated to obey their husbands.
These and a range of other disparities monitored by the report have far-reaching consequences, negatively affecting not only women themselves, but their children, their communities, and their countries' economies. The report counts nearly 950 instances of gender inequality, under 7 indicators.
"It is a grave injustice when societies place legal restrictions on women's ability to get a job, or participate in economic life. Women - like men - deserve every opportunity to fulfill their potential, no matter where they live. These restrictions are also bad economics. Women represent over half the world's population. We can't afford to leave their potential untapped - whether because laws fail to protect women against violence, or exclude them from financial opportunities, property ownership or professions," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "When women can work, manage incomes and run businesses, the benefits extend far beyond the individual level - to children, communities and entire economies. We will not rest until women have full economic rights everywhere."
Lower gender legal equality is associated with fewer girls attending secondary schools, fewer women working or running businesses, and a higher gender wage gap. Where laws do not provide protection from domestic violence, women are likely to have shorter life spans. But where governments support childcare, women are more likely to be employed.