WASHINGTON, March 4, 2023 (WAFA) – The global pace of reforms toward equal treatment of women under the law has slumped to a 20-year low, constituting a potential impediment to economic growth at a critical time for the global economy, a new World Bank report shows.
“At a time when global economic growth is slowing, all countries need to mobilize their full productive capacity to confront the confluence of crises besetting them,” said Indermit Gill, Chief Economist of the World Bank Group and Senior Vice President for Development Economics.
“Governments can’t afford to sideline as much as half of their population. Denying equal rights to women across much of the world is not just unfair to women; it is a barrier to countries’ ability to promote green, resilient, and inclusive development.”
Worldwide, nearly 2.4 billion women of working age still do not have the same rights as men, the report said. Closing the gender employment gap could raise long-term GDP per capita by nearly 20% on average across countries. Studies estimate global economic gains of $5-6 trillion if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men do.
In 2022, said the World Bank, only 34 gender-related legal reforms were recorded across 18 countries—the lowest number since 2001. Most reforms focused on increasing paid leave for parents and fathers, removing restrictions to women’s work, and mandating equal pay.
According to the report, the first decade of this century saw strong gains towards legal gender equality. Between 2000 and 2009, over 600 reforms were introduced, with a peak of 73 annual reforms in 2002 and 2008. Since then, reform fatigue seems to have set in—particularly in areas that involve long-established norms, such as the rights of women to inherit and own property. New analysis of the data shows that economies with historically larger legal gender gaps have been catching up, especially since 2000.
Although great achievements have been made over the last five decades, more needs to be done worldwide to ensure that good intentions are accompanied by tangible results —that is, equal opportunity under the law for women, says the World Bank.