In 18 Nations, Women Cannot Get a Job Without Their Husband’s Permission – Real Time Economics

About 90% of the nations surveyed by the World Bank have at least one law that is discriminatory against women –MOHAMMED AL-SHAIKH/AFP/GETTY IMAGES


Where is the law gender-blind? Only in about a tenth of the world’s nations.

Two decades after the United Nations and its members committed to improving gender equality, only a handful of those countries treat women the same under the law as men–and the U.S. isn’t one of them.

Out of 173 economies surveyed, all but 18 of them have some form of legal discrimination against women, according to the World Bank’s latest biennial report on Women, Business and the Law.

In 18 countries, married women cannot get a job without their husband’s permission: Bahrain, Bolivia, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Gabon, Guinea, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Mauritania, Niger, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza and Yemen.

The report measures women’s legal barriers to entrepreneurship and employment by looking at the laws in each country, including whether women are prevented from holding certain jobs, whether they have equal access to credit and whether they face restrictions on where they can live or work.

“There is study after study that shows that empowering women is not just good for women, but it’s good for children, it’s good for society and it leads to ultimately a more prosperous, vibrant economy and development,” said Kaushik Basu, the bank’s chief economist.

In 18 economies, the law is gender-blind: Armenia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Kosovo, Malta, Mexico, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Puerto Rico, Serbia, Slovak Republic, South Africa, Spain and Taiwan.

The group includes wealthy nations as well as developing economies, suggesting per capita income isn’t the only predictor of women’s success in an economy, Mr. Basu said.

About 90% of the economies surveyed have at least one law that is discriminatory against women, according to the report. Most of them have to do with women’s roles in the workforce.

Russia is the most egregious offender in the labor category. A total of 456 occupations are off-limits for women, including truck driver, freight train conductor, deckhand and “installer of antennas at high places,” the report said.

Many of those restrictions are meant to protect women, said Sarah Iqbal, the study’s lead author. “What we would suggest is to look at it from a woman’s perspective,” she said.

For example, in France, women are prohibited from working jobs where they must lift more than 25 kilograms, about 55 pounds. That bars them from working for the postal service or shipping companies like FedEx.

“Even more interestingly, that’s the average weight of a 5-year-old child,” Ms. Iqbal said. “Any mother will tell you picking up a child is something that they do every day.”

The report also found:

  • In 41 countries, women are barred from working in certain factory jobs; in 29 countries, women are prohibited from working at night.
  • In 30 countries, married women cannot choose where to live, and in 19 they are legally obligated to obey their husbands.
  • The U.S. falls short as part of a small group that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave for new mothers. Only three other countries don’t offer paid maternity or parental leave: Tonga, Suriname and Papua New Guinea.
  • Women in the Middle East and North Africa face the most wide-ranging constraints, including laws that prohibit women from applying for a passport or getting a job without their husband’s permission. The region is home to 11 of the world’s most restrictive economies: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Yemen, Iraq, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Syria, Qatar and Kuwait.
  • South Asia also lags behind the rest of the world in its efforts to promote gender equality. Most of the reforms enacted over the past two years took place in developing economies, including 18 in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Laws protecting women from domestic violence are becoming more common. The report found 127 countries have legislation against domestic violence, compared with almost none 25 years ago. Yet 46 nations still have no laws covering domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, age of marriage and protection orders.

Related reading:

Are Women the New Face of Organized Labor?

Gender Equality an ‘Economic No-Brainer,’ Says IMF Chief

17 Countries Where Women Are the Majority of Wage-Earners

Legal Barriers That Keep Women From Working Hurt the Economy

‘Insidious Conspiracy’ Against Women Costs Economies Up to 30% of GDP, Says IMF Chief



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9 September 2015 | 7:00 pm – Source:


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