Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

These economies reformed laws to secure equal pay for women: World Bank

Women's rights are improving, but the quest for equal pay for women is still in progress.

Women's rights are improving, but the quest for equal pay for women is still in progress. Image: Pixabay/OpenRoadPR

Natália Mazoni Silva Martins
Analyst, Development Economics Global Indicators Group, World Bank
Bassam Sebti
Global Editor, WorldBank.org
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Education, Gender and Work

  • Since 2019, 27 economies have improved women’s economic inclusion across all areas and amended laws to improve gender equality in the workplace.
  • The largest area of reform involved improving laws affecting equal pay for women.
  • However, work still needs to be done to increase equality, particularly in the area of parenthood legislation.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 27 economies in all regions and income groups enacted reforms to remove obstacles to women’s economic inclusion across all areas and increased good practices in legislation since 2019, according to the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2021. The greatest number of reforms introduced or amended laws affecting equal pay for women and parenthood.

Most reforms were implemented in laws affecting women’s pay.

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New dawn for equal pay for women

Bahrain, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam eliminated restrictions on women’s employment in jobs previously deemed dangerous for women. Montenegro and Saudi Arabia also eliminated all restrictions on women’s employment in industrial jobs such as mining, construction, manufacturing, and the water sector, setting men and women on equal terms in choice of employment opportunities. Costa Rica and Saudi Arabia lifted bans on women’s night work.

The Marshall Islands, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates reformed their laws to introduce legislation mandating equal pay for men and women who perform work of equal value.

More than two-thirds of economies can improve legislation affecting equal pay for women

Pay (0-100)

Evolution of equal pay for women over the past 51 years
Evolution of equal pay for women over the past 51 years Image: Women, Business and the Law/World Bank

This chart depicts the evolution of regional scores for the Pay indicator over the past 51 years. A score of less than 100 indicates the existence of restrictive laws and regulations affecting a woman's ability to earn equal pay for work of equal value, and her ability to work in the same sectors and industries as men.

To see the full animated graph, click here.

Reforms related to parental leave and marriage remain high on economies’ agendas

Laws affecting equal pay for women after having children remained high on the reform agenda. Five economies made reforms in this area, leading to improvements in eight data points. Ethiopia increased paid maternity leave from 90 to 120 days and guaranteed the right to three days of paid paternity leave for the first time.

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In the last 50 years, most progress towards equal pay for women has been made on the parenthood indicator; however, much more needs to be done.

Parenthood (0-100)

Laws for parenthood have made progress but much more needs to be done to ensure equal pay for women
Laws for parenthood have made progress but much more needs to be done to ensure equal pay for women Image: Women, Business and the Law/World Bank

This chart depicts the evolution of regional scores for the Parenthood indicator over the past 51 years, which includes laws on maternity, paternity, parental leave and dismissal of pregnant workers.

To see the full animated graph, click here.

Despite this progress, the report notes that parenthood is the area that leaves the most room for improvement globally. This includes paid parental leave, whether benefits are administered by the government, and whether the dismissal of pregnant women is prohibited. Reforms are also needed to address the restrictions women face in the type of jobs, tasks, and hours they can work, segregating them into lower-paid jobs. And in 100 economies, laws do not mandate equal pay for women, for equally valued jobs.

Download the Women, Business and the Law 2021 report (pdf) to explore more data. For more insight and analysis, check out the report website.

Shuting Sun and Divyanshi Wadhwa contributed to this blog.

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Equity, Diversity and InclusionJobs and the Future of Work
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