Women Enjoy Economic Opportunity in OECD Economies, But Laws Against Violence Lagging, says WBG Report

September 9, 2015

WASHINGTON, September 9, 2015 – The world’s high-income economies boast wide-ranging laws to promote women’s economic advancement, but more needs to be done to protect them against violence, says the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law 2016 report, released today.

Just over half of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) economies have laws that criminalize domestic violence says the biennial report, which examines legal and regulatory barriers to women’s ability to get a job and start a business. The latest edition covers 173 economies across the globe, including 32 high-income OECD economies.

These economies stand out in having legislation that facilitates parents’ ability to enter the workforce. In nearly 90 percent of the economies that mandate paid maternity leave, the leave is subsidized by the government. In the past two years, Israel, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovenia and the United Kingdom improved their laws on parental benefits in ways that can increase women’s participation the workforce. For example, Poland introduced parental leave, which enables men to take on childcare responsibilities, and New Zealand increased the length of maternity leave to 112 days.

Even in more recently regulated areas, many OECD high-income economies boast legislation that increases gender parity. Seventy-five percent of economies in the region legally prohibit gender discrimination in access to credit. The Australian Sex Discrimination Act bans discrimination on the basis of sex when providing services relating to banking, insurance and the provision of grants, loans, credit or finance.

Other measures to promote gender equality have gained traction in the region. In 2015, Germany introduced a 30 percent quota for women on corporate boards, increasing to 8 the number of OECD high-income economies with such regulations, which can boost women’s representation at the highest levels of the private sector.

However, despite these advances, restrictions on women’s employment and economic opportunities remain. A quarter of OECD high-income countries restrict women’s ability to work in the same capacity as men. In France, for instance, women may not work in jobs that require carrying weights over above a certain limit. Such restrictions can reduce women’s earning potential and labor force participation, exacerbating the gender wage gap and stunting a country’s potential economic growth.

Additionally, Austria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, and Poland do not specifically mandate non-discrimination in hiring based on gender, although nondiscrimination is mandated in other aspects of employment.

Women’s employment can also be undermined by gender-based violence. Almost a third of OECD economies monitored have yet to impose criminal sanctions for domestic violence against women, and less than 10 percent have laws protecting women from sexual harassment in public places.

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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