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PRESS RELEASE March 29, 2018

Latin America and the Caribbean Improves Women’s Economic Inclusion but Could Do More Against Violence, says WBG report

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 – Economies in Latin America and the Caribbean region carried out eight legal reforms in the past two years to improve women’s economic inclusion, says the World Bank Group’s Women, Business and Law 2018 report, released today.   

Most of the reforms focused on making it easier for women to work by expanding maternity leave benefits. However, the region’s economies need to do much more to protect women from violence by enacting laws against domestic violence and sexual harassment in public places.

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.

“Women’s entrepreneurship is a driving force behind economic activity in the region. So, the more women can realize their full economic potential, as workers or business owners, the more the region’s economies and societies will benefit,” 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 include Colombia, where the Constitutional Court struck down job restrictions on women’s employment in the mining industry and in jobs deemed hazardous and arduous; and Ecuador, which equalized men’s and women’s property rights by no longer allowing a husband’s decisions to prevail when spouses disagree on how to administer assets.

Colombia, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Paraguay all increased the duration of paid maternity leave. Panama introduced three days of paid paternity leave.

The region’s strengths lie in the areas of using property, with an average score of 98. All but four of the region’s 32 economies score a perfect 100. The region also performs well in the area of accessing institutions, with an average score of 97, 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.

The report also highlights areas where the region is not faring as well and where progress on indicators such as getting a job, building credit and legislation on sexual harassment and domestic violence could be improved.

Despite the recent reforms in expanding maternity leave, less than half of the region’s economies meet the International Labor Organization standard of 14 weeks or more of maternity leave. On the plus side, the region’s economies place the fewest restrictions of any region on women’s employment in entire industries, after high-income OECD economies.

In the area of building credit, which constrains women’s access to finance. The report finds that 40 percent of economies in the region score 0 on this indicator.

Approximately one-third of economies in the region do not have legislation on sexual harassment at work. Without protections in place, sexual harassment can undermine careers, the ability to work, and the employment climate.

The full report and accompanying datasets are available at



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