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5 March 2019

EU: ranking of gender rights in labour legislation with six EU-countries in the lead

A new World Bank report has been published which examines gender discrimination and related labour market reforms across 187 countries worldwide over the past 10 years. Based on eight indicators, countries are given a score out of 100 in all areas. Several EU-countries figure high in the resulting ranking in gender equality, but more need to be done to achieve equal treatment of the sexes.

The World Bank Group project Women, Business and the Law (WBL) collects data on the laws and regulations that restrict women's economic opportunities. The dataset identifies barriers to women's economic participation and encourages the reform of discriminatory laws. The project has enhanced the study of gender equality and informed discussions on improving women's economic opportunities and empowerment. The dataset offers objective and measurable benchmarks for global progress toward gender equality. Over the last decade, WBL has expanded coverage to 187 economies and 8 topics relevant to women's economic participation. Comparable across economies, the outcome is useful for research and policy discussions on improving women's economic opportunities.

The 2019 edition of the report Women, Business and the Law 2019: A Decade of Reform examines ten years of data through an index structured around the economic decisions women make as they go through their working lives. The presentation of the 2019 report was live-streamed. The report explores how the economic decisions women make are affected by the law. The data show there has been great progress towards legal gender equality over the past decade. In 131 economies there have been 274 reforms to laws and regulations, leading to an increase in gender equality. This includes the 35 economies that implemented laws on workplace sexual harassment, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago. The project group has also analysed outcomes of research that relate to women’s economic empowerment, in particular their labour market participation.

In WBL-methodology, countries are given a score out of 100 in all areas. A decade ago, no country obtained a score of 100, meaning no country guaranteed equal legal rights. Based on eight indicators, the 2019-index leads to an average global score of 74.71, indicating that on average there is still gender inequality in one quarter of the areas examined. However, six EU-economies (Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden) score 100, meaning that women are on equal legal standing with men across all eight indicators in these economies. Of the top-scoring countries, France made the biggest improvements over the past 10 years by implementing a domestic violence law, providing criminal penalties for workplace sexual harassment and introducing paid parental leave. The WBL-webpage contains not only the regular reports of the project, but also provides detailed data sheets, information about the applied methodology and the calculated scores.

Although the report finds in theory significant progress overall, much remains to be done to implement real equal footing. The listed legal reforms have not necessarily lead to changes in practice, and a score of 100 does not automatically mean 100% equality. Especially the gender pay gap persists, even in the high-ranked countries, for instance, women in Sweden earn 5% less than their male colleagues.

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