Methodology

This interactive highlights legal barriers to women’s economic participation for 189 countries worldwide, visualizing data collected by the World Bank in its Women, Business and the Law 2018 report. Women’s access to employment and economic opportunity depends on a range of factors and this interactive highlights one critical precondition of women’s economic participation: equality under the law. The following information draws on text from the World Bank report, summarizing their approach and assumptions. It further outlines the Council on Foreign Relations’ methodology for building the index, including its expansion of the World Bank’s initial scores.

World Bank Methodology

The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law report monitors laws and policies affecting women’s economic activity. Now in its fifth iteration, the report assesses legal gender barriers across seven indicators: accessing institutions, using property, getting a job, providing incentives to work, going to court, building credit, and protecting women from violence. The report uses formal laws as a starting point for analysis, and the report’s indicators—defined below—were selected based on input from legal practitioners around the world.

While Women, Business and the Law focuses on law and policy, a large gap often exists between laws on the books and their implementation. Governments should address the inequalities that prevent women from achieving their economic potential, starting with ensuring a level playing field under the law, which is a critical first step to closing the economic participation gap between women and men.

The World Bank’s methodology was designed to be an easily replicable way to benchmark the legal and regulatory environment for women as entrepreneurs and employees. A major consideration for the project is that the indicators are comparable across economies. The indicators are based on standardized assumptions. For example, a standardized assumption for maternity leave is that the woman is having one child. While maternity leave rules often differ for twins, only data for individual births is captured by the question.

Another assumption is that the woman is located in the largest business city of the economy. However, legislation may differ within federal economies, where laws affecting women can vary by state. Even in nonfederal economies, women in rural areas and small towns may face more restrictive local legislation.

In 2018, the World Bank for the first time provided a score for each of the seven indicators. To calculate these, the World Bank selected a sample of questions within each indicator and scored them. In their report, World Bank researchers detailed how the answers were standardized and made comparable across all countries, how the questions were scored, and what assumptions were made. The indicator scores (a number between 0 and 100, 100 being the best) were obtained by calculating the unweighted average of the scored questions in that indicator and then scaling the result to 100.

The World Bank scored a total of fifty questions, all of which fall into three categories: (1) explicit gender-based differences that affect women’s entrepreneurship or employment (for example, gender-based job restrictions); (2) the absence of laws that protect women (for example, lack of legislation on sexual harassment); and (3) institutions or processes likely to help women (for example, antidiscrimination commissions).

The World Bank requires each legal data point to have a citable legal source, and sources for every data point are posted on the project website to ensure that the data is transparent. The data was collected by local experts working in each of the 189 countries covered in the report, through conversations, questionnaires, and field visits by the World Bank team. The information that local experts provided was checked for accuracy through a rigorous review process.

The World Bank’s project website outlines assumptions made in the raw data collection.

CFR Methodology

To develop the Women’s Workplace Inequality Index, the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) calculated a straight average of each of the seven indicator scores, using updated figures as outlined below. Scholars then ranked countries based on their overall average score between 0 and 100 (100 being the best). For countries with the same score, CFR assigned them the same rank number and left a corresponding gap in the index. Thus if two (or more) countries tie for a position in the ranking, the position of those ranked below them is unaffected (i.e., a country comes in third if exactly two countries score better than it and fourth if exactly three countries score better than it).

CFR scholars calculated new totals for four indicator scores—accessing institutions, getting a job, protecting women from violence, and providing incentives to work—after adding six additional questions drawn from the World Bank’s data set that were not included in initial scores. These are listed below, along with the methodology for scoring each question and background on their significance to women’s rights and opportunities. Scholars recalculated the indicator scores, repeating the World Bank’s methodology of finding the unweighted average of the scored questions in that indicator (now including CFR’s selected scored questions) and then scaling the result to 100.

In the index, countries were further grouped in three levels: high (indicated with the color green) for countries that scored between 76 and 100; medium (indicated with the color yellow) for countries that scored between 51 and 75; and low (indicated with the color red) for countries that scored between 24 (the lowest score given) and 50.

Additional Question #1: Domestic Violence

Women, Business and the Law report question: Are there clear criminal penalties for domestic violence?

Indicator: Protecting women from violence

Background: Violence against women undermines women’s economic potential by limiting productivity, preventing employment, lowering earnings, and blocking access to financial resources.

The question was scored using the following methodology.

  • The answer is “Yes” if

    • a law or provision establishes criminal penalties for domestic violence offenses or for physical and sexual violence perpetrated between spouses, family members, or intimate partners; or
    • the law or provision addressing domestic violence does not prescribe criminal sanctions, but states that domestic violence offenses will be sanctioned in accordance with the criminal code; or
    • domestic violence is addressed in the criminal code and specifically criminalizes either violence by or against a spouse, family member, or intimate partner or violence that subjects the victim to cruelty within the family or in interpersonal relationships; or
    • the criminal code provides for aggravated penalties if an offense is committed by or against a spouse, family member, or intimate partner.
  • The answer is “No” if

    • there is no law addressing domestic violence; or
    • the law or provision addressing domestic violence does not provide for criminal sanctions or state that domestic violence offenses will be sanctioned according to the criminal code; or
    • the law or provision addressing domestic violence only prohibits or establishes noncriminal penalties for the behavior, or only establishes penalties for violating a protection order.
  • Scoring: Yes = 1; No = 0.

Additional Question #2: Marital Rape

Women, Business and the Law report question: Does legislation explicitly criminalize marital rape?

Indicator: Protecting women from violence

Background: Violence against women undermines women’s economic potential by limiting productivity, preventing employment, lowering earnings, and blocking access to financial resources.

The question was scored using the following methodology.

  • The answer is “Yes” if

    • legislation explicitly criminalizes the act of marital rape by providing that rape or sexual assault provisions apply regardless of the nature of the relationship between the perpetrator and victim, or that no marriage or other relationship shall constitute a defense to a charge of rape or sexual assault under the legislation; or
    • legislation explicitly criminalizes the act of rape between (1) persons in marital relationships; (2) relatives, when the law explicitly recognizes spouses as relatives; or (3) persons in situations of abuse or dependency of family, when the law clearly includes spouses within the definition of family; or
    • legislation that explicitly criminalizes the act of rape states that the spouse is a potential offender or is not exempt from charges; or
    • legislation states that marital relationships are an aggravating factor for the crime of rape or for sexual assault that includes elements of rape; or
    • legislation sets out conditions in which the penalty for marital rape, or rape by the husband, is mitigated, so that the criminalization of marital rape can be inferred.
  • The answer is “No” if

    • there are no criminal sanctions for the offense of rape between spouses (i.e., the law only “prohibits” the act, provides for the application of protection orders, or allows a judge to order a husband not to rape his wife); or
    • the provision on marital rape applies only if the spouses are separated or in the process of separating; or
    • the provision covers only relationships of dependency in general, or financial or official dependence; or
    • the provision on rape applies only in certain circumstances, such as sickness or pregnancy; or
    • the provision applies only to family members, but spouses are not clearly included in the definition of family; or
    • the provision on marital rape states that prosecution may only be instituted with authorization of the attorney general or an authority with discretionary powers.
  • Scoring: Yes = 1; No = 0.

Additional Question #3: Child Marriage

Women, Business and the Law report question: What is the legal minimum age of marriage for girls? What is the minimum age of marriage for girls with parental consent or judicial authorization?

Indicator: Protecting women from violence

Background: Girls are disproportionately affected by child marriage; fifteen million girls every year marry before their eighteenth birthday. Girls’ physical and emotional health, education, and wage-earning prospects are all jeopardized when they marry as children. Girls who marry early are left without the skills, knowledge, and social networks to financially support their household, which maintains their low societal status and makes their families vulnerable to an intergenerational cycle of poverty that hinders the development of their communities. While most countries set eighteen as the minimum age of marriage, several countries provide exceptions, such as parental consent or judicial authorization, which undermines the efficacy of legal protections against child marriage.

The question was scored using the following methodology.

  • The legal age of marriage for girls is

    • the age at which girls can be married without parental or another authority’s consent; or
    • the age under which girls are not allowed to be married, if no exceptions exist.
  • The minimum age of marriage with parental consent for girls is the age at which girls can get married with the consent of their parents or guardians. The answer to this question applies where parental consent is the element that triggers the exception for marriage under the legal age. If parental consent and judicial authorization are both needed for marriage below the minimum age, the answer to both questions is the same.

  • The minimum age of marriage with judicial authorization for girls is the age at which girls can get married with authorization of the court or a judge. The answer to this question applies where judicial authorization is the element that triggers the exception for marriage under the legal age. If parental consent and judicial authorization are both needed for marriage below the minimum age, the answer to both questions is the same. Judicial authorization covers a lower-level court or judge, which indicates that the authorization is fairly routine and easy to access. The answer is “N/A” where judicial authorization requires a higher-level court, which indicates that the authorization is less likely to occur.

  • Scoring: The legal age of marriage for girls is eighteen and above, with no exceptions allowing marriage under eighteen with parental or judicial consent = 1; the legal age of marriage for girls is eighteen and above, but there are exceptions permitting girls to marry at younger ages with parental consent or judicial authorization = 0.5; the legal age of marriage for girls is below eighteen = 0.

Additional Question #4: Parental Benefits

Women, Business and the Law report question: Does the law mandate paid paternity leave?

Indicator: Getting a job

Background: Maternity, paternity, and parental leave schemes can contribute to the redistribution of unpaid care work. Ensuring job-protected leave of adequate length and pay for both parents is critical to keeping women in the workforce. The World Bank has found that promoting fathers’ leave may contribute to leave policies that do not exacerbate gender inequality.

The question was scored using the following methodology.

  • Paternity leave is defined as leave available only to the father; it does not include leave available to both parents.

  • Provisions for circumstantial leave in which an employee is entitled to a certain number of days of paid leave upon the birth of a child are considered paternity leave, if the law is gender-neutral and maternity leave is covered elsewhere by the law. For example, if the labor code provides that a worker may take a “one-day leave for the birth of a child” as a paid justified absence, the term “worker” is gender-neutral in the language in use, and maternity leave is covered in another article of the code, the one-day paid justified absence is considered paternity leave.

  • If a law technically provides paternity leave but that leave is deducted from annual leave or sick leave, the law is not considered to mandate paid paternity leave.

  • Scoring: The amount of paid paternity leave is equal to or above four days, the median around the world = 1; the country mandates paid paternity leave, but the number of days is less than four = 0.5; no paid paternity leave = 0.

Additional Question #5: Care

Women, Business and the Law report question: Must employers provide leave to care for sick relatives?

Indicator: Providing incentives to work

Background: Women’s economic participation is reduced by their disproportionate burden of caring for children, the sick, and the elderly. Policies that encourage and permit men and women to provide this care will encourage greater gender equality in the workforce.

The question was scored using the following methodology.

  • Family-care leave is leave other than maternity, paternity, or parental leave that is granted to the employee. This question captures provisions that allow employees to take family leave specifically to care for a sick relative. For this question, the term “relatives” includes parents, spouses, and children younger than six. This question does not capture allowances or social security benefits paid to an employee when she or he is on leave to care for a sick relative.

  • The answer is “Yes” if

    • leave is mandated by law to employees regardless of gender; or
    • the law specifies that the employer has an obligation to grant employees (regardless of gender) leave to take care of a sick relative; or
    • leave is granted in exceptional circumstances only for family matters.
  • The answer is “No” if

    • leave is subject to collective-bargaining agreements or any other agreements, including employer consent; or
    • the law allows employees to work part-time or have a flexible work schedule to care for a sick relative; or
    • the law grants employees benefits when they are on leave to care for a sick relative, but there is no entitlement to take family-care leave; or
    • leave is deducted from annual leave; or
    • the law grants employees leave for childcare but not specifically to care for a sick child; or
    • leave is granted only in cases of serious or terminal illness; or
    • leave is granted to female employees only.
  • Scoring: Yes = 1; No = 0.

Additional Question #6: Citizenship

Women, Business and the Law report question: Can a woman (married or unmarried) confer citizenship to her children in the same way as a man?

Indicator: Accessing institutions

Background: When women are legally prohibited from passing on citizenship, their children in turn may be at risk of statelessness, without access to education, health care, employment, or identity documents. Without proof of identity, it is more difficult to find employment, open a bank account, receive credit, and access small-business loans.

The question was scored using the following methodology.

  • The answer is “Yes” if

    • both the mother and father can confer citizenship on their children in the same manner, regardless of where the children are born; or
    • additional procedures must be completed by men but not by women (e.g., proof of paternity).
  • The answer is “No” if

    • only the father can confer citizenship on the children, regardless of where the children are born; or
    • additional procedures are required when citizenship is conveyed by the mother.
  • Where a citizenship law and the constitution conflict on the passage of citizenship, the answer is coded according to whichever came later.

  • Scoring: Yes = 1; No = 0.

Definition of Terms

Accessing institutions

“Accessing institutions” explores women’s legal ability to interact with public authorities and the private sector in the same ways as men. This indicator also covers constitutional protections and the use of legislated quotas to increase women’s representation in public and private decision-making bodies.

Building credit

“Building credit” identifies minimum loan thresholds in private credit bureaus and public credit registries, and tracks whether these credit agencies collect information from microfinance institutions, utilities, and retailers.

Gender parity

A statistical measure that compares a specific indicator among women, such as participation in the workforce, to the same indicator among men.

Getting a job

“Getting a job” assesses restrictions on women’s ability to work, such as prohibitions on working at night or in certain occupations. This indicator also covers laws on maternity, paternity, and parental leave; retirement ages; equal remuneration for work of equal value; and nondiscrimination in the workplace.

Going to court

“Going to court” explores the ease and affordability of accessing justice by identifying the presence of justice institutions, procedures that support equality of access to the legal system, and women’s representation on constitutional courts.

Gross national income

Gross national income (GNI) is a measurement of a country’s income. It includes all the income earned by a country’s residents and businesses, regardless of whether it is produced in the country or abroad.

Protecting women from violence

“Protecting women from violence” examines the existence and scope of legislation on violence against women, including domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, and child and early marriage, and on the availability of protection orders for victims.

Providing incentives to work

“Providing incentives to work” examines personal income-tax credits and deductions available to women relative to men and the provision of childcare and education services.

Using property

“Using property” analyzes women’s ability to access and use property based on their ability to own, manage, control, and inherit it.

Resources

“The Economic and Career Effects of Sexual Harassment on Working Women” (Gender & Society, 2017)

“Female Judges Matter: Gender and Collegial Decisionmaking in the Federal Appellate Courts” (The Yale Law Journal, 2005)

“GNI per capita, Atlas method (current US$)” (World Bank, 2018)

Legal Barriers to Women’s Economic Empowerment (Council on Foreign Relations, 2018)

“Strengthening Economic Rights and Women’s Occupational Choice: The Impact of Reforming Ethiopia’s Family Law” (World Bank, 2013)

“What Is Driving Women’s Financial Inclusion Across Countries?” (International Monetary Fund, 2018)

Women, Business and the Law 2018 (World Bank, 2018)

“Women’s Inheritance Rights and Intergenerational Transmission of Resources in India” (World Bank, 2013)

“World Development Indicators: Size of the Economy” (World Bank, 2017)

“World Population Prospects 2017: Total Population – Female” (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2017)

Acknowledgments

This CFR digital interactive is a product of the Women and Foreign Policy program, generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project was informed by the guidance of the World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law team, in addition to other distinguished experts from multilateral organizations, academia, government, and the private sector.

Executive Production

Jamille Bigio

Senior Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy

Rachel Vogelstein

Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program

Alexandra Bro

Research Associate for the Women and Foreign Policy Program

Rebecca Hughes

Research Associate for the Women and Foreign Policy Program

Lucia Petty

Intern for the Women and Foreign Policy Program

Editorial Management

Shannon K. O’Neil

Vice President, Deputy Director of Studies, and Nelson and David Rockefeller Senior Fellow for Latin America Studies

Patricia Dorff

Editorial Director, Publishing

Julie Hersh

Production Editor, Publishing

Erik Crouch

Associate Editor, Publishing

Sumit Poudyal

Assistant Editor, Publishing

Digital Management

Doug Halsey

Chief Digital Officer

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Director of Product and Design

María Teresa Alzuru

Product Manager

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Photo Editor

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Quality Assurance Analyst

Please direct inquiries to abro@cfr.org.

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