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Credit: Juan Marin

Women face unequal opportunities worldwide

A recent report from the World Bank has shed light on the stark reality facing women in the workforce worldwide: no country offers them the same opportunities as men, with the global gender gap proving to be even wider than previously assumed.

The report underscores the potential economic benefits of bridging this gap, suggesting that doing so could boost global gross domestic product by over 20%.

Examining childcare and safety policies across 190 countries, the report found that women, on average, have only 64% of the legal protections enjoyed by men, a notable drop from the previous estimate of 77%. Tea Trumbic, the report’s author, emphasized how issues like childcare accessibility and safety concerns disproportionately affect women’s ability to work, with violence and childcare expenses serving as significant barriers.

Furthermore, the report, now in its 10th edition, for the first time evaluates the gap between enacted laws and their actual implementation. Shockingly, it reveals that countries have established less than 40% of the necessary systems for full implementation on average.

Despite progress, only 35 out of 95 countries with laws on equal pay have implemented measures to address the gender pay gap, where women globally earn just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Sub-Saharan African countries like Togo, while boasting a high number of gender equality laws, struggle with effective implementation.

The report underscores the importance of addressing childcare disparities, noting that closing this gap could boost women’s labor force participation by 1%. However, less than half of the countries offer financial support or tax relief for parents, and even fewer have quality childcare standards in place.

Moreover, workplace sexual harassment laws in 151 countries often fail to extend protection to instances of abuse in public areas or on public transport, leaving women vulnerable during their commute.

“While progress has been made, the gap between men’s and women’s expected lifetime earnings globally is US$172 trillion – nearly two times the world’s annual GDP,” said Mari Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships. “As we move forward to achieve green, resilient and inclusive development, governments need to accelerate the pace of legal reforms so that women can realize their full potential and benefit fully and equally.”

“Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace if they are on an unequal footing at home,” said Carmen Reinhart, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank Group. “That means leveling the playing field and ensuring that having children doesn’t mean women are excluded from full participation in the economy and realizing their hopes and ambitions.”

In the past year, Hong Kong SAR, China—which previously provided 10 weeks of paid maternity leave—introduced the recommended 14-week minimum duration. Armenia, Switzerland, and Ukraine introduced paid paternity leave. Colombia, Georgia, Greece, and Spain introduced paid parental leave, which offer both parents some form of paid leave to care for a child following birth. Laws promoting paid leave for fathers can reduce discrimination in the workplace and improve work-life balance.

Recent reforms, such as Hong Kong SAR, China’s extension of maternity leave to the recommended 14 weeks, and the introduction of paid parental leave in countries like Armenia, Switzerland, and Ukraine, demonstrate progress. However, regional disparities persist, with the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa making significant strides in 2021, especially Gabon, which implemented comprehensive reforms.

Addressing disparities in parental leave policies, with only 118 economies guaranteeing 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, and promoting paid leave for fathers, are crucial steps toward reducing workplace discrimination and improving work-life balance globally.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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