Europe and Central Asia Region Makes Big Strides in Gender Equality, But Extensive Job Restrictions Remain, Says WBG Report

September 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2015 – The Europe and Central Asia region has the world’s most extensive job restrictions on women, keeping women out of many occupations, says the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law 2016 report, released today.

At the same time, the region is also the world’s biggest reformer when it comes to providing women equal opportunity in entrepreneurship and employment, says the report, which monitors legal and regulatory barriers to women’s economic advancement. The latest edition of the biennial report covers 173 economies throughout the world, including 23 from the Europe and Central Asia region.

It finds that the country with the most job-related barriers is Russia, where 456 jobs are out of bounds for women. In Kazakhstan, women are prohibited from 299 jobs, while women in Belarus are prohibited from 182 jobs, a significant decrease from 252 recorded in the report’s last edition two years ago.

Such restrictions can significantly reduce women’s earning potential and labor force participation, exacerbating the gender wage gap, says the report, which examines laws that impede women’s employment and entrepreneurship globally.

While gender-based job restrictions remain pervasive in Europe and Central Asia, significant progress is being made on other fronts.

Over the past two years, the region has emerged as a global leader in reforming laws to achieve greater gender equality, with 19 reforms enacted in 10 economies.   

Belarus enacted the most reforms, with 4 laws changed for the benefit of women. Along with Latvia, Belarus adopted legislation providing protection to women against domestic violence. This reduced to just 3 the number of economies in the region which do not have laws against domestic violence. The three economies are Armenia, Russia and Uzbekistan.

FYR Macedonia passed a new, expanded domestic violence law and Georgia amended its criminal code to explicitly criminalize marital rape. Additionally, Albania added criminal sanctions for sexual harassment to its penal code.

On other fronts, for example property rights, Europe and Central Asia stands out for its equal treatment across genders before the law. In more recently regulated areas such as access to credit, 10 economies have laws prohibiting creditors from gender-based discrimination in access to credit. The region also boasts strong parental benefit policies. Women throughout the region are legally entitled to paid maternity leave, and about 43 percent of the economies covered also offer paternity leave and 83 percent offer parental leave, which can be shared between the mother and the father, giving families greater flexibility in sharing childcare responsibilities.

Over the past two years, Belarus, Croatia, Georgia, Latvia and FYR Macedonia have refined their laws on parental benefits. Turkey and Tajikistan have also enacted reforms in the area of childcare. The report finds that more women work in economies where the government supports childcare.

Albania, Kazakhstan and Serbia also passed legislation to gradually increase the retirement ages of women so that they are equal with those of men. Removing gender differences in retirement age can positively impact a women’s overall career prospects, earnings, benefits and savings.

The full report and accompanying datasets are available at

About Women, Business and the Law:

Women, Business and the Law measures how laws, regulations and institutions differentiate between women and men in ways that may affect women’s incentives or capacity to work or to set up and operate a business. It analyzes legal differences on the basis of gender in 173 economies, covering seven areas: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, building credit, going to court and protecting women from violence. The report is published every two years.

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