The Big Picture: Most Nations Have Barriers for Working Women

A recent study by the World Bank of 173 countries, reported by Somini Sengupta of the New York Times found that “90 percent of the countries surveyed had at least one law that discriminated against women.” These restrictions on women were found in both rich and poor countries. In some cases, including in the United States, the absence of some laws creates barriers. Sengupta shared some examples:

  • The United States is one of only four advanced countries around the world with no national laws requiring paid parental leave for new mothers.
  • Russia bars women from a variety of jobs, including freight train conductor and mining rig operator.
  • Iran and Qatar are among eighteen countries that require a married woman to ask for her husband’s permission to go to work.
  • The most restrictive laws are in the Middle East, where some nations prohibit women from applying for passports or opening businesses without their husband’s permission.
  • The most restrictive economies include American allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Iraq, along with Iran and Syria.
  • The gender wage gap is lower in countries with no restrictions but still exists almost everywhere.

Why Countries Should Care

In addition to the issue of basic fairness for girls and women regarding equal access to education and economic opportunity, countries are actually limiting their own growth and prosperity when they limit opportunities for women. Kaushik Basu, chief economist at the World Bank, noted, “Removing these [barriers] can unleash energy and growth.” It’s important for all of us to have the big picture about global gender discrimination. I think this awareness can energize us to act locally against gender discrimination when we think globally. What could acting locally look like for you?  What actions could you take?     “A Young Woman at Work” by worldbank is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.]]>