The World Bank Group works with public- and private-sector clients to close gaps between males and females globally in tackling poverty and driving sustainable economic growth in our client countries. 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 decelerating investment growth and rising poverty rates in many developing countries—affect boys, girls, men and women differentially (often to the detriment of females) due to discriminatory laws and policies, along with gender and social norms that influence their economic roles, and responsibilities.
Countries around the world are working to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Evidence from outbreaks similar to COVID-19 indicates that women and girls can be affected in particular ways, and in some areas, face more negative impacts than men. In fact, there is a risk that gender gaps could widen during and after the pandemic and that gains in women’s and girls’ accumulation of human capital, economic empowerment and voice and agency, built over the past decades, could be reversed.
It is time to go beyond ensuring equal access to recognizing and elevating women as agents of economic growth, stability and sustainability, and for men to work with women to accelerate progress toward gender equality.
About 810 women die from pregnancy- or childbirth-related complications around the world every day. In education, enrollment has increased, but school completion remains a challenge at the secondary level for both girls and boys, albeit for different reasons.
Globally, women’s labor force participation fell from 51% in 2000 to 48% in 2019; women spend three times longer on unpaid care work than men, devoting 1 to 5 hours more a day to unpaid domestic work, childcare and other family care work. This is likely to increase during COVID-19, brought about by the closure of schools, the confinement of elderly people and the growing numbers of ill family members.
Women in all countries face earnings gaps. If women could have the same lifetime earnings as men, global wealth could increase by $172 trillion, and human capital wealth could increase by about one fifth globally.
Countries made more than 1500 reforms over the past 50 years to enhance women’s economic participation, however women still have only three-quarters of the legal rights of men. This includes 190 economies and examines laws and regulations affecting women’s prospects as entrepreneurs and employees. Many laws and regulations, however, 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.
Women globally are 9% less likely to have an account with a financial institution or mobile banking than men, and the gap is larger in poorer countries. Some research suggests that digital financial services can improve women's economic participation and therefore facilitate economic development. Compared to cash, digital financial services offer several potential benefits to women, including greater financial control and lower transaction costs. These benefits can make it easier for women to invest in businesses, get jobs, and manage financial risk. The IFC estimates a $1.5 trillion annual credit deficit for women-owned small and medium enterprises.
Gender-based violence affects more than 1 in 3 women over the course of a lifetime. Violence against women and girls has a significant toll on not just their wellbeing, but also on their families across generations and societies more broadly. In some countries, violence against women is estimated to cost countries up to 3.7% of their GDP.
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2020