- A World Bank report gave six nations a perfect score for achieving equal rights between men and women under the law.
- All six nations are in Europe, which has some of the most progressive childcare and paid leave policies in the world.
- Women in a typical economy have only three-quarters of the rights of men, the report found.
The last decade has secured numerous victories for gender equality around the world.
India criminalized child marriage, women in Saudi Arabia won the legal right to drive, and Suriname’s “nationality law” was overturned, allowing women to pass citizenship to their children without marrying someone from the same country.
But only six countries have achieved true gender parity under the law, according to a recent report by The World Bank.
The report looked at how legislation affects women’s economic decisions across eight indicators: the ability to travel, start a job, get married, have children, run a business, get paid, manage assets, and obtain a pension.
Countries with 100 points earned a perfect score, but the global average was around 75 points. This led the authors to conclude that “a typical economy only gives women three-quarters the rights of men.”
The United States scored an 84, but lost points due to its parental leave policies. Nations in the Middle East and North Africa earned a much lower average of 47 points.
Take a look at how six countries – Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden – have achieved equal rights under the law over the last decade.
Belgium is reducing one-on-one salary negotiations.
The World Bank considered whether women in different countries were able to work the same hours and in the same industries as men. It also considered whether the law requires equal payment for work of equal value.
In Belgium, the vast majority of workers sign collective bargaining agreements that prevent them from having to individually negotiate their salaries.
In 2012, the country passed a law that requires employers to analyse their wage structure to detect any differences in pay between men and women. Women are also protected by a system that automatically raises wages to meet the growing cost of living.
Three new policies paved the way for a more equal society in France.
A decade ago, not single country achieved a perfect score on The World Bank’s assessment of gender equality. France has made by far the greatest strides by passing landmark policies in the last ten years.
In 2018, the government introduced five new measures to combat domestic violence, including additional funding for a national helpline and an online platform that simplifies the process of reporting an attack. It also introduced paid parental leave and increased the penalty for workplace sexual harassment.
Denmark is making efforts to combat domestic violence.
Nordic countries are known for their progressive childcare and paid leave policies, but many of them suffer from high incidences of domestic violence. In Denmark, 32% of women said they had experienced intimate physical and/or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime.
A 2016 report refers to this phenomenon as the “Nordic paradox,” suggesting that there may be an unexpected backlash against women in gender-equal societies.
Since 2002, Denmark has launched multiple national action plans to confront this issue. The most recent plan focuses on young people exposed to dating violence.
Latvia provides flexible schedules for working mothers.
Most women in Latvia are full-time workers, and more than two-thirds of mothers with dependent children have a paying job.
In 2015, the nation signed an agreement that provides flexible work arrangements for parents with abnormal schedules (e.g. those who works nights or on weekends). A 2011 law also calls upon local governments to provide all children between one-and-a-half and five years old with equal access to a pre-school education.
Like other European nations, Latvia has undertaken numerous steps to reduce domestic violence and human trafficking as well.
Luxembourg is making it easier for parents to take paid leave.
The World Bank report highlights Luxembourg’s parental leave policy, which allows both parents to take paid leave before their child turns six years old. (Full-time employees are given leave for four to six months.)
Data from the Ministry of Family Affairs found that just 20% of fathers in Luxembourg took parental leave in 2014, before the law was passed in 2016. The new legislation allows them to earn a salary that’s proportionate to what they earned at work, and no less than minimum wage.
Sweden is helping more mothers take on full-time jobs.
Women in Sweden earn a slightly lower average salary than men, but this disparity seems to be driven, in part, by more women working part-time.
The Swedish government reports that mothers view childcare responsibilities as one of the main reasons why they can’t take on a full-time job – something the country is actively working to address.
Sweden now offers free childcare for up to 15 hours per week for children ages three to six. It also allows parents of both sexes to take 16 months of parental leave while earning about 80% of their salary (with a cap). Parents are required to share their time off, and fathers are recommended to take about five months.
The World Bank report found that laws such as these could encourage more women to participate in the workforce.
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