Women, business and the law 2016: Getting to equal

World Bank


Since 2009, Women, business and the law has collected data about legal restrictions on women’s entrepreneurship and employment in order to inform policy discussions and promote research on the linkages between the law and women’s economic opportunities. This report is the fourth in the series.

The report includes data on seven indicators: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, going to court, building credit and protecting women from violence. New areas covered within these indicators include legislation on issues such as nondiscrimination in access to credit, care leave for sick relatives, the legal age of marriage and protection orders for victims of domestic violence.

Women, business and the law measures legal restrictions on women’s employment and entrepreneurship by identifying gender-based legal differences. The dataset has captured 21 differences in policies for unmarried women and 26 for married women that affect women’s economic opportunities, for a total of 47 differences across five indicators.

Of the 173 economies covered by Women, business and the law, 155 maintain at least one barrier for women seeking opportunities that does not exist for men; on this simple measure, the majority of economies have at least one legal gender difference.

The 30 economies with ten or more legal differences are in the Middle East and North Africa (18), Sub-Saharan Africa (8), East Asia and the Pacific (2) and South Asia (2). The 18 economies with no legal differences between women and men in the areas measured are: Armenia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, the USA, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan and China.

The report finds that lower legal gender equality is associated with fewer girls attending secondary school relative to boys, fewer women working or running businesses, and a wider gender wage gap. Where laws do not provide protection from domestic violence, women are likely to have shorter life spans. But where governments support childcare, women are more likely to receive wages.


World Bank. (2015). Women, business and the law 2016: Getting to equal. Washington, DC: World Bank.