- Only 20 of 128 economies have equal legal rights for men and women in several important areas for entrepreneurs and workers, according to a new World Bank Group report, Women, Business and the Law 2010. Inequality occurs across all regions and income levels. But many economies have been legislating to reduce these inequalities, the report said.
The new report looks at legal equity in such areas as a woman’s ability to register a business, own and use property, and go to court on her own account. It also looks at differential tax treatment of women and at constraints on women’s ability to work in different industries and during different times of the day.
“Increasing women’s economic opportunities improves the well-being of families and communities, reduces poverty, and stimulates economic growth,” said Rita Ramalho, lead author of the report. “Many factors shape women’s opportunities to run successful businesses and get good jobs. Equitable business regulations are one piece of the puzzle.”
Women, Business and the Law 2010 analyzes differences in formal laws and institutions affecting women’s prospects as entrepreneurs and employees across six topics - accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, dealing with taxes, building credit, and going to court. The report is the first to measure the gender gap in policy variables using quantitative and objective data. It does not measure all aspects that matter for women’s economic opportunities. For example, it does not measure access to childcare, education, or personal security.
“Gender differentiation in law sometimes arises out of a desire to protect women, but it may inadvertently limit their opportunities,” said Penelope Brook, Director of the Global Indicators and Analysis Department of the World Bank Group. “We hope that by setting out objective data on legal inequality we can stimulate debate and research on which provisions help, and which constrain, women in their lives as workers and as businesswomen.”
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