The World Bank Group works with public- and private-sector clients to close gaps between males and females globally for lasting impact in tackling poverty and driving sustainable economic growth that benefits all. In the last two decades, the world has narrowed the divide between men and women, especially in primary education and health. Yet critical gaps remain. Major challenges—from climate change, forced migration, and pandemics to the global jobscrisis—affect boys, girls, men and women differentially due to gender norms, roles, and responsibilities. Less recognized is that women and girls have a unique role to play as drivers of growth and progress and as powerful agents of change.
Historic human development gains have been made over the past 25 years, but serious challenges remain. About 830 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. In education, enrollment has increased, but completion remains a challenge at the secondary level for both girls and boys, albeit for different reasons. Limited educational opportunities for girls cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings.
Globally, women’s labor force participation fell from 51% in 2000 to 49% in 2018; women devote 1 to 5 hours more a day to unpaid domestic and child care and/or other family care work, and 1 to 6 hours a day less to market activities than men,.
As women are more likely than men to bear childcare responsibilities, lack of access to quality and affordable childcare is a major barrier to female labor force participation.
Globally, International Labor Organization data show women earn about 20 percent less than men. Women in all countries face earnings gaps: countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth due to differences in lifetime earnings between men and women.
Over the past decade, in 131 economies there have been 274 reforms to laws and regulations, leading to an increase in gender equality. This includes 35 economies that have implemented laws on workplace sexual harassment, protecting nearly two billion more women than a decade ago. However, many laws and regulations continue to prevent women from entering the workforce or starting a business; discrimination can have lasting effects on women’s economic inclusion and labor force participation.
The IFC estimates a $1.5 trillion annual credit deficit for women-owned small and medium enterprises. Women are 10% less likely to have an account with a financial institution or mobile banking than men, and the gap is larger in poorer countries.
Gender-based violence—perhaps the most extreme constraint on women’s voice and agency—remains a global epidemic, affecting more than one in three women over the course of a lifetime.
Last Updated: Apr 09, 2019