No country provides equal work opportunities for women - World Bank

Its report, "Women, Business, and the Law," finds that no country provides women with equal opportunities compared to men.

06 Mar 2024 03:38pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Illustrated by Sinar Daily
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Illustrated by Sinar Daily

SHAH ALAM - The World Bank has revealed a significantly wider global gender gap in the workforce than previously thought.

Its report, "Women, Business, and the Law," finds that no country provides women with equal opportunities compared to men.

This disparity comes at a significant economic cost. Closing the gender gap could potentially increase global gross domestic product by over 20 per cent, according to the study.

Childcare, safety concerns limit women's work options

The report examined how childcare and safety policies across 190 countries impact women's participation in the labor market.

It found that, on average, women have only 64 per cent of the legal protections afforded to men, a significant decrease from the previous estimate of 77 per cent.

Lead author Tea Trumbic highlights the substantial impact of childcare and safety issues on women's work opportunities.

Factors like violence can physically prevent women from working, while childcare costs can be a major barrier.

Related Articles:

Implementation gap widens despite legal reforms

This year's report goes beyond legal frameworks, analysing the gap between law enactment and implementation for the first time.

The findings are concerning.

On average, countries have implemented less than 40 per cent of the necessary systems required for full legal enforcement.

While 95 countries have enacted equal pay laws, only 35 have measures ensuring these laws are enforced effectively.

This translates to a stark reality: globally, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Progress in reform, challenges in implementation

The report acknowledged progress in legal reform efforts by several sub-Saharan African countries.

Togo and Sierra Leone are highlighted for significant legal advancements in the past few years.

However, a lack of supporting structures hinders implementation.

"While we've seen consistent reform efforts, supportive frameworks are largely missing.

"Countries that recently reformed have a wider implementation gap. They've raised legal standards but lack mechanisms to enforce them," Trumbic said.

Addressing the childcare gap: A key to increasing participation

The report suggested that simply addressing the childcare gap could immediately boost women's labour force participation by 1 per cent.

However, less than half of all countries offer financial support or tax relief for parents.

Even fewer have established quality childcare standards.

Likewise, 81 countries have pension benefits that don't consider childcare-related work absences, further widening the gender gap.

Lack of legal protection leaves women vulnerable

The study also highlighted a critical lack of comprehensive legal protection for women, particularly concerning sexual harassment in public spaces or during commutes.

This leaves women vulnerable and discourages them from participating in the workforce.

Closing the gap: A call for urgent action

The report also pointed out that discriminatory laws and practices worldwide significantly hinder women's ability to work and start businesses on an equal footing with men.

World Bank Group Chief Economist Indermit Gill stressed the urgency of addressing this issue.

"Closing the gender gap could significantly boost global economic growth.

"However, reforms have slowed to a crawl. We need to accelerate progress to unlock this economic potential," Gill said.