This indicator measures the government’s commitment to promoting gender equality by providing women and men with the same legal ability to access legal and public institutions, own property, go to court, and get a job; and measures the extent to which the law provides girls and women legal protection from violence.
Relationship to Growth & Poverty Reduction
The indicator draws from five areas of the Women Business and the Law report–“Accessing Institutions,” “Using Property,” “Getting a Job,” “Going to Court,” and “Protecting Women from Violence”—each having a unique relationship to growth and poverty reduction:
- Accessing Institutions: This area explores women’s legal ability to interact with public authorities and the private sector in the same way as men. Studies show that legally sanctioned gender inequality has a significant negative impact on a country’s economic growth because it prevents a large portion the population from fully participating in the economy, thus lowering the average ability of the workforce. 1 When one gender receives fewer legal rights, both the country’s potential labor force and potential pool of entrepreneurs decreases.
- Using Property: This area analyzes women’s ability to own, control, and inherit property. Owning and having an equal say in their use of property not only increases women’s financial security, but is also associated with their increased bargaining power within the household. 2
- Getting a Job: This area assesses restrictions on women’s work. Restrictions on working hours, sectors, and occupations limit the range of jobs that women can hold and this lead to occupational segregation and confinement of women to low-paying sectors and activities. 3 Many jobs prohibited for women are in highly paid industries, which can have implications for their earning potential. Further, when women are excluded from “male” jobs in the formal sector, an overcrowding can occur in the “female” informal job sector. This leads to a depression of wages for an otherwise productive group of workers. 4 Research shows that when women have access to employment, investment in children’s health, nutrition, and education often increases, promoting higher levels of human capital. 5
- Going to Court: This area examines whether women’s testimony in court is given the same evidentiary weight as that of men. Women’s testimonial parity increases equality before the law and protects them in case of legal challenges to contracts and other matters of economic importance where they must give testimony to prove their case. 6
- Protecting Women from Violence: This area examines laws on domestic violence, sexual harassment, and child marriage. Violence can undermine women’s economic empowerment by preventing employment and blocking access to other financial resources. 7 Research shows the earnings of women in formal wage work who are exposed to severe partner violence are significantly lower than women who do not experience such violence. 8 Similarly, due to the typically large age differences between girls younger than 18 and their husbands, child brides lack bargaining power in the marriage and have less say over their activities and choices, including education and economic activity. 9 Child marriage–through reduced decision-making power, greater likelihood of school dropout and illiteracy, lower labor force participation and earnings, and less control over productive household assets—severely impedes the economic opportunities of young women. 10
The Gender in the Economy indicator utilizes 40 questions from the Women, Business, and the Law initiative of the World Bank and assigns points to the response received for a country on each question. 11