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World Bank report shows wider global gender gap for women in the workplace

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The global gender gap for women in the workplace is far wider than previously thought, a groundbreaking new World Bank Group report shows.

When legal differences involving violence and childcare are taken into account, women enjoy fewer than two-thirds of the rights of men. No country provides equal opportunity for women not even the wealthiest economies.

According to the World Bank in a report seen by ThePressNG, the latest Women, Business, and the Law report offers a comprehensive picture of the obstacles that women face in entering the global workforce and contributing to greater prosperity for themselves, their families, and their communities.

It expands the scope of its analysis, adding two indicators that can be critical in opening up or restricting women’s options: safety from violence and access to childcare services.

When those measures are included, women on average enjoy just 64% of the legal protections that men do—far fewer than the previous estimate of 77%.

The report noted that the gender gap is even wider in practice.

According to the report, for the first time, Women, Business, and the Law assesses the gap between legal reforms and actual outcomes for women in 190 economies. The analysis reveals a shocking implementation gap.

Although laws on the books imply that women enjoy roughly two-thirds of the rights of men, countries on average have established less than 40% of the systems needed for full implementation.

The report noted that effective implementation of equal-opportunity laws depends on an adequate supporting framework, including strong enforcement mechanisms, a system for tracking gender-related pay disparities, and the availability of healthcare services for women who survive violence.

The implementation gap highlights how much hard work lies ahead even for countries that have been instituting equal-opportunity laws.

It noted that in 2023, governments were assertive in advancing three categories of legal equal-opportunity reforms—pay, parental rights, and workplace protections. Still, nearly all countries performed poorly in the two categories being tracked for the first time—access to childcare and women’s safety.

According to the World Bank, the weakness is greatest in women’s safety—where the global average score is just 36, meaning women enjoy barely a third of the needed legal protections against domestic violence, sexual harassment, child marriage, and femicide.

It noted that although 151 economies have laws in place prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, just 39 have laws prohibiting it in public spaces.

The report said that women also face significant obstacles in other areas adding that in the area of entrepreneurship, just one in every five economies mandates gender-sensitive criteria for public procurement processes, meaning women are largely cut out of a $10-trillion-a-year economic opportunity.

It added that in the area of pay, women earn just 77 cents for every $1 paid to men which according to the bank, the rights gap extends to retirement.

It noted that in 62 economies, the ages at which men and women can retire are not the same adding that women tend to live longer than men, but because they receive lower pay while they work, take time off when they have children, and retire earlier, they end up with smaller pension benefits and greater financial insecurity in old age.

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