Women’s legal right evolution over the last 50 years

Did you know that today on average women have just three-quarters of the legal rights of men? In 1970, it was less than half.

With a score of 67.9 out of 100, the EU is at least 60 years away from reaching complete gender equality. EIGE’s Gender Equality Index shows that advances in gender equality are still moving at a snail’s pace, with an average improvement of just half a point each year.

Women, Business and the Law 2020 are one in a series of studies of the World Bank that tracks how the law affects women at various stages in their lives.

Analysis of 1,518 reforms across 50 years and 190 economies yields some interesting insights. First of all, significant progress has been made around the world. The pace of reform has varied across regions. The high-income OECD and Sub-Saharan Africa regions have noted the biggest progress both in terms of volume of reforms and improvement in their average WBL index scores. While the speed of reform has differed significantly across economies, some regional patterns prevail.

Graph by World Bank on Women Business and the Law 2020

The second interesting finding is that progress has been uneven across the eight different areas of the law measured by WBL. The indicators are Mobility, Workplace, Pay, Marriage, Parenthood, Entrepreneurship, Assets, and Pension. In the last five decades, the most reform happened in the Workplace indicator, with 322 reforms the index improved the average from 17.6 to 78.4. These reforms focused on introducing legislation on protections against sexual harassment, as well as preventing discrimination in employment. The reform effort intensified in the mid-1990s. While there were significant gains in all areas, Pay and Parenthood indicators have the largest gaps to close.

Graph by World Bank on Women Business and the Law 2020

The third interesting discovery is made by looking at the countries that from 1970 to 2019 recorded the biggest improvement in their WBL index score. Belgium and Luxembourg have achieved gender equality in all of the areas measured. Today, only eight economies around the world receive a score of 100: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden.

Graph by World Bank on Women Business and the Law 2020

The average Women, Business and the Law index score in 2019 is 75.2, indicating that women have approximately three-quarters of the rights of men in the areas covered by the index. This score represents a significant improvement in the five decades covered by the data. In 1970, the global average Women, Business and the Law index score were 46.5. Altogether, every economy measured has made at least one regulatory change each year since 1970, for a total of 1,517 reforms over 50 years.

Despite the progress that has been made, more work remains and we all hope it takes less than 60 years to achieve it.

Especially in the light of research, such as that of the Nobel prize in 2020 Esther Duflo, which proves a correlation between Women Empowerment and Economic Development. Women’s empowerment and economic development are closely interrelated. While development itself will bring about women’s empowerment, empowering women will bring about changes in decision making, which will have a direct impact on development.

This blog contribution was made by Eleonora Papini.

Eleonora is originally from Italy, she is passionate about human psychology, sustainable development and international cooperation. Eleonora works as a Project Implementation Officer in a European project about urban sustainable development solutions aimed at valuing the young and female entrepreneurship industry.

In 2021 became also a Data Analyst for the LMF Network and content creator for their blog.

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World Bank Women, Business and the Law 2020 https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/how-have-womens-legal-rights-evolved-over-last-50-years

European Institute for Gender Equality, EIGE. Gender Equity Index.https://eige.europa.eu/gender-equality-index/about

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