(Bloomberg) — The World Bank warned that the pandemic is reinforcing gender inequality in many countries, with women on average having roughly three-quarters of the legal rights of men, a situation that risks undermining global development.
Covid-19 has exacerbated women’s challenges in employment and education, the bank said in its annual report on Women, Business and the Law. While legislation in some countries has improved, women in other nations still face legal limits on their economic opportunities, including restrictions on travel without a male guardian, as well as disadvantages in parenting and retirement, the bank said.
The pandemic also contributed to an increase in the severity and frequency of gender-based violence, according to the report. Countries need to take steps to improve paid parental leave, government benefits and prohibition on firing pregnant women, among other measures the World Bank said. In 100 economies, there are no laws mandating that men and women receive equal pay for jobs.
“Women need to be fully included in economies in order to achieve better development outcomes,” World Bank President David Malpass said. “Women should have the same access to finance and the same rights to inheritance as men and must be at the center of our efforts toward an inclusive and resilient recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The average score in the World Bank’s global index in the report is 76.1 for a period of just more than a year through September 2020, up from 75.5 a year earlier. The index is based on measures for pay, marriage, mobility and other factors and a score of 100 means women and men have equal rights –- a feat achieved only in Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal and Sweden.
Of the 39 economies with scores higher than 90, 28 are Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development high-income countries, and seven are in Europe and Central Asia. The others are in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and sub-Saharan Africa. Economies in the Middle East and North Africa have the lowest average score at 51.5. High-income countries scored better on average than low-income countries.