Getting to Equal: Interview with World Bank Group’s Tanya Primiani on “Women, Business and the Law 2018”

21 Sep 2018

The fifth edition of World Bank Group’s “Women, Business and the Law” is now available. It examines laws affecting women’s economic inclusion worldwide in 189 countries and identifies opportunities for reform to ensure economic empowerment for all. The findings are critical for achieving sustainable economies and the SDG goals. Meet Tanya Primiani, Senior Investment Policy Officer at the World Bank Group and instrumental to the publication.

Ms Primiani, what are the most striking findings of the 2018 report?

There are a number of really interesting findings coming out of our 2018 report. For example: While some economies get a perfect score on some indicators, not a single economy gets a perfect score across all indicators. This means that even within the high performers, there are still areas for improvement.

A very large number of economies (104 out of the 189 measured) still restrict women’s employment in industries such as manufacturing, construction, energy, agriculture, water and transportation. This is important because our analysis also shows that economies with more labor restrictions also have a lower female labor participation rates and larger gender wage gaps.

The report captured 87 reforms toward more legal gender equality across 65 economies. Reforms happened in every region and at every income level but of the 5 economies implementing the most reforms, 4 are in Sub-Saharan Africa (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia) and one (Iraq) is in the Middle East and North Africa.
What can be gained from dismantling legal barriers to women’s economic participation?
Research shows that women’s economic inclusion promotes growth and boosts shared prosperity. A McKinsey study assessed the global gains of gender equality in the workforce at $28 trillion globally (if gender equality is reached by 2025). Other research estimates that closing the gap in women’s labor force participation across OECD countries would lead to gains of 12 percent by 2030, including 20 percent in Japan and Korea and 22 percent in Italy. Data from the Women Business and the Law 2018 report also shows correlations between legal gender equality and the female labor force participation rate as well as the rate of firms with majority female ownership.
What top three measures, or reforms, would you recommend states to undertake to ensure women’s economic empowerment?
While we recommend they implement all the good practices we highlight in the report, there are some areas that have the potential for greater impact: Ensuring equal access to and control over land and property. This is crucial as it has a large potential effect on women’s financial inclusion and the ability to leverage their assets to access credit and start businesses. Ensuring proper protection against sexual harassment in the workplace. Currently, 59 economies still do not have laws on sexual harassment at work. Our data shows that where this is the case, women are also less likely to lead businesses. Ensuring the leave and childcare regimes provide the right framework to ensure women are able to reenter the workforce after giving birth. This includes meeting the ILO minimum recommended standard for leave available to women (14 weeks at a wage replacement rate of 2/3), ensuring that the burden of paying for that leave is not placed exclusively on the employer, and making sure childcare is available and affordable.

Read the full report here.

Last updated 21 Sep 2018, 2.43 PM