India scores highest among South Asian nations in Women, Business and Law Index

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 22, 2020

World Bank study examined laws, regulations affecting women’s economic opportunities

India has taken the top spot in the South Asianregion in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law (WBL) Index 2020. The country gained 4 per cent year-on-year with a score of 74.4 out of 100.

Eight parameters

The study examined laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunities across 190 economies. There were eight parameters -- workplace, pay, mobility, marriage, parenthood, pensions, assets and entrepreneurship. India beat the Maldives to get the top rank in the South Asian region.

The World Bank studyparticularly commended the measures adopted by Maharashtra to remove restrictions on women’s ability to work in jobs deemed dangerous.

BRICS comparison

However, compared to other BRICS countries, India’s scorewas second-to-last. South Africa topped the WBL index among the BRICS grouping, scoring 88.1 points. It was followed by Brazil, with 81.9 points. China witnessed a dip in its score but obtained 1.2 points more than India.

While scoring 100 in the indicators of mobility, workplace and marriage, India scored poorly with respect to pay (25). Its score was relatively low in parenthood (40), entrepreneurship (75), pension (75) and assets (80). On similar lines, China scored poorly in pay (25) and pension (25), and lower in entrepreneurship (75) and parenthood (80).

The study observed that giving women equal opportunities in the workplace leads to more successful economies. This is only possible if timely legislative reforms are introduced. The success of an economy is directly proportional to higher female labour force participation, it said.

Legislative reforms

Over the past two years, 40 economies across varied regions and income groups have introduced 62 reforms to facilitate women’s entry into the workforce, thereby making women’s economic empowerment a priority, it added.

The nations that saw the most significant growth were Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Nepal, South Sudan, São Tomé and Príncipe, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Jordan and Tunisia.

Perfect 100

However, only eight economies among the 190 scored a perfect 100 on the WBL Index. These are Belgium, France, Latvia, Sweden, Canada, Denmark, Iceland and Luxembourg.

While the report noted significant improvements in women’s contribution to the economy, legal rights are still insufficient, it said. Women, on an average, have just three-fourths of the legal rights afforded to men globally, per the WBL study.

The study measured only the formal laws and regulations governing women’s ability to work or own businesses — it did not cover a country’s norms and practices.

Here, India’s score aligned with the global mean.

Published on January 22, 2020

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