According to a new World Bank report, only six countries in the world offer equal economic opportunity to both women and men — and the United States is not one of them. In fact, Axios reported that the U.S. legal equality ranking is so low that it does not fall in the top 60 countries for legal environments that promote women in business, which means that it does not come close to providing complete gender equality under the law.
The World Bank's new report gives each country a "Women, Business and the Law" index score to assess equality for working women around the world. This index measures women’s labor force participation in each country using eight indicators: mobility, access to employment, equal pay, marriage and divorce laws, paid parental leave, ability to open a business or bank account, asset ownership rights, and pension access. The World Bank determined that these indicators "have significant implications for the economic standing of women," according to the report's co-authors.
Based on these eight indicators, the World Bank gave the United States an index score of 83.75, ranking it in 65th place. This overall score was calculated using the unweighted average of all eight indicator scores on a scale of zero to 100, per the report. The average global score was 74.71, which according to the report indicates "that a typical economy gives women only three-fourths the legal rights of men in the measured areas."
But although the United States achieved a higher score than the global average, it did not come close to complete legal equality. There were six countries, however, that scored 100: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg, and Sweden. This means the World Bank has determined that these countries treat women and men equally on the basis of all eight indicators studied in the report.
In an interview with France24, the World Bank's interim president, Kristalina Georgieva, said the report should help "policymakers to zero on where they're falling behind, and what steps they need to take to catch up." Georgieva also pointed out, however, that many countries have improved upon prior conditions of economic and legal inequality. According to the report's co-authors, all of the world's regions made progress in the past decade, with 131 economies making 274 legal changes toward gender equality. As a result, the average global score increased from 70.06 to 74.71 over the course of the past 10 years.
Despite this progress, countries across the world still have a long way to go when it comes to true economic equality, Georgieva told France24. Equality under the law — meaning, for example, that a woman has the same ability as a man does to choose where to live or to own a business — is a "very important first step" toward achieving true gender equality. Even countries that scored 100 in the World Bank's report haven't completely solved the gender pay gap, or remedied all gender-based discrimination, but they have taken steps to get there, Georgieva explained.
Ultimately, the report found that women participate at higher rates in the workforce in regions where there are more laws in place protecting equal opportunity, per Axios, and women are also getting paid more in these places.