Gender Equality in Europe and Central Asia

Doctor, Kyrgyz Republic (Photo: World Bank)

The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is "Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World" and celebrates the efforts of women and girls around the world to create a more equal and resilient recovery from the pandemic. International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to highlight the gender gaps that remain, and ways to address them.


Across the Europe and Central Asia region, many countries have a long history of striving for gender equality. According to Women, Business and the Law 2021, the region scores highest among non-OECD countries on gender equality in mobility, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, and assets.

However, three decades of unprecedented political, economic and social transformations have had profound gender-related impacts, which vary country by country. Among the main challenges in the region are persistent gaps in labor force participation and earnings.

Women's employment has been affected by the shrinkage of state-provided services such as child-care and child allowances. Land privatization has led to gender-differentiations in land ownership, where the male head of the family is most often listed as the primary owner.

In labor force participation, the gender gap is about 17 percentage points, with a key constraint being the lack of access to affordable and quality childcare. The pay gap between males and females is about 30 percent. Legal restrictions still exist on certain types of jobs that women can perform.

Female entrepreneurship is low compared to other regions, due to limited access to assets, financial services, capacity building opportunities, information, and markets.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated pre-existing gender vulnerabilities. Women are faced with immense stress in balancing their paid and unpaid work with family and childcare needs. They have been experiencing serious mental, physical, and emotional health implications. Women-headed businesses have been the first to suffer in terms of reduction in workforce and firm closure.

" Women are at the frontline in battling the pandemic, and they must also be front and center in countries’ efforts to achieve a more inclusive and resilient recovery. "
Anna Bjerde, Vice President, Europe and Central Asia

Anna Bjerde

Vice President, Europe and Central Asia, World Bank

The World Bank is committed to women’s economic empowerment and is guided by a Gender Strategy that focuses on key areas such as: closing gender gaps in education and health; removing obstacles to jobs; and removing barriers to women’s ownership and control of land, housing and bank accounts.

Learn More:

Women, Business and the Law

Women, Business and the Law 2021 is the seventh in a series of annual studies measuring the laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies.

Amidst a global pandemic that threatens progress toward gender equality, the report identifies barriers to women’s economic participation and encourages reform of discriminatory laws. This year, the study also includes important findings on government responses to the COVID-19 crisis and pilot research related to childcare and women’s access to justice.

Learn more about Women, Business and the Law

World Bank Group