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PRESS RELEASE March 29, 2018

East Asia Region Implements 11 Legal Reforms to Improve Women’s Economic Inclusion, But More Laws Needed Against Violence

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 – Economies in the East Asia and Pacific carried out 11 legal reforms in the past two years to promote women’s economic inclusion, says the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and Law 2018 report, released today.

But much more than be done to improve women’s access to credit and provide protection against violence, says the biennial report, which examines laws that impede women’s employment and entrepreneurship in 189 economies across the world, including 25 from East Asia and Pacific.

Now in its 5th edition, the report introduces, for the first time, a scoring system of 0 to 100, to better inform the reform agenda. Scores are assigned to every monitored economy on each of the report’s seven indicators: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, going to court, building credit, and protecting women from violence.

“While economies in the East Asia and Pacific do well in some areas, much work remains to remove hurdles to women’s economic empowerment. Violence against women, at home or in the workplace, is a particularly weak point in the region and we look forward to seeing legal remedies reforms to address this important issue,” said Rita Ramalho, Senior Manager of the World Bank’s Global Indicators Group, which produces Women, Business and the Law.

Highlights of reforms in the region included China, which expanded paid maternity for women under 25 years of age to equalize this benefit for all women; Kiribati, where a new labor code has lifted all restrictions on women’s employment; Malaysia, which now allows victims of sexual harassment to seek civil remedies; Timor-Leste introduced a social security system that now provides maternity benefits, instead of employers; and  Singapore increased the length of paid paternity leave from five to 10 days.

The region generally performs well on the accessing institutions indicator, with an average score of 95, as most economies do not differentiate between women and men in a range of public interactions, such as registering a business, opening a bank account or obtaining a national identification.

However, East Asia and the Pacific economies average a score of only 19 in the area of building credit, which constrains women’s access to finance, with 13 of the region’s 25 economies scoring 0 on this indicator.

The region also performs poorly in protecting women against violence, with an average score of 44. Approximately half of the economies do not have legislation protecting women from sexual harassment at work.

Although restrictions on women’s employment exist in all regions of the world, nearly one-third of economies in East Asia and Pacific restrict women from jobs in certain industries, such as mining.

And, while at least 14 weeks of paid maternity leave is a global norm, just seven economies in the world do not mandate any paid maternity leave. Five of these economies are in East Asia and Pacific: Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, and Tonga.

The full report and accompanying datasets are available at



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