How have women’s legal rights evolved over the last 50 years?

Today, women have just three-quarters of the legal rights of men. In 1970, it was less womanthan half. The Women, Business and the Law 2020 report presented results from our recent effort to document how laws have changed since 1970. This exceptional dataset has already facilitated ground-breaking research that shows that a country’s performance on the Women, Business and the Law index is associated with more women in the labor force, a smaller wage gap between men and women, and greater investments in health and education. We hope that sharing the data and reform descriptions on our website will lead to more evidence that will inspire policymakers to change their laws so that more women can contribute to economic growth and development.

Analysis of 1,518 reforms across 50 years and 190 economies yields some interesting insights. First of all, significant progress has been made around the world. Second, the pace of reform has varied across regions. The high-income OECD and Sub-Saharan Africa regions have noted the biggest progress both in terms of volume of reforms and improvement in their average WBL index scores. The third interesting finding is that progress has been uneven across the eight different areas of the law measured by Women, Business and the Law. Most reforms were recorded in the areas of workplace protections and laws dealing with working parents. Despite the progress that has been made, more work remains.

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