Women Are Held Back by Laws Across the Globe

2 minute read

What if you needed to get your husband’s permission to get a job? What if the laws in your country prohibited you from opening a bank account, or traveling outside the country?

Such restrictions are hard to believe in 2015, but they are the reality for many women across the world, according to a new report from the World Bank. Out of 173 economies covered in the report, 155—90%—have at least one law restricting women’s economic opportunities. In 100 countries, women are restricted from doing certain jobs and in 18 countries, men can legally prevent their wives from working.

The report, “Women, Business and the Law,” has come out annually since 2009 and looks at seven indicators of economic opportunity for women, including using property, getting a job and building credit. The report also found evidence that gender inequality leads to adverse economic impacts for women, such as fewer girls accessing secondary education, starting businesses, or making competitive salaries as compared to men.

The report’s findings revealed that 17 countries, including Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, restrict women’s ability to travel outside the home. Four countries, including Bhutan and the Congo, block women from registering a business. Thirty-two countries, including Jordan, Haiti and the Philippines, curtail a woman’s ability to get a passport on her own.

The report wasn’t all bad news. More than a third of the countries studied have implemented reforms to help women over the last two years. Jamaica repealed a law that prohibited women from doing night work, Guinea changed its labor code to prevent hiring discrimination based on gender, and Germany introduced a 30% quota for women on corporate boards, to name a few reforms.

“When women can work, manage incomes and run businesses, the benefits extend far beyond the individual level—to children, communities and entire economies,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. ” We will not rest until women have full economic rights everywhere.”


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