A new report from the World Bank and IFC finds that women still face legal and regulatory hurdles to fully participating in the economy.
"In South Asia, only Sri Lanka does not have any legal differentiation in accessing institutions or using property," the report 'Women, Business and the Law 2012: Removing Barriers to Economic Inclusion,' said, adding that for all economies in South Asia maternity leave is paid by the employer and no economy in the region provides for paternity leave or parental leave.
In the region, approximately 20 per cent of economies have microfinance institutions that provide information to private credit bureaus or public credit registries, it said, adding that no economy made changes over the past one year and half that affected the indicators in Women, Business and the Law.
The report 'Women, Business and the Law 2012: Removing Barriers to Economic Inclusion' revealed that while 36 economies reduced legal differences between men and women, 103 out of 141 economies studied still impose legal differences on the basis of gender in at least one of the report’s key indicators.
The report also identified 41 law and regulatory reforms enacted between June 2009 and March 2011 that could enhance women’s economic opportunities.
Globally, women represent 49.6 per cent of the population but only 40.8 per cent of the workforce in the formal sector. Legal differences between men and women may explain the gap, said the report that shows economies with greater legal differentiation between men and women have, on average, lower female participation in the formal labor force.
"Competitiveness and productivity have much to do with the efficient allocation of resources, including human resources,” said director at the Global Indicators and Analysis, World Bank Group Augusto Lopez-Claros. "The economy suffers when half of the world’s population is prevented from fully participating. It is certainly no surprise that the world’s most competitive economies are those where the opportunity gap between women and men is the narrowest."
The report measured such things as a woman’s ability to sign a contract, travel abroad, manage property, and interact with public authorities and the private sector.
In all economies, married women face more legal differentiations than unmarried women. In 23 economies, married women cannot legally choose where to live, and in 29 they cannot be legally recognised as head of household.
Every region includes economies with unequal rules for men and women, although the extent of the inequality varies widely.
On average, high-income economies have fewer differences than middle- and low-income economies. The Middle East and North Africa have the most legal differences between men and women, followed by South Asia and Africa.
It measures how regulations and institutions differentiate between women and men in ways that may affect women’s incentives or capacity to work or to set up and run a business. Women, Business and the Law objectively measures such legal differentiations on the basis of gender in 141 economies around the world, covering six areas: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, and going to court. While the project provides a clear picture of gender gaps based on legal differences in each economy, it is a simple snapshot measuring only legal differentiation.