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India commands the top score on the Women, Business and Law Index 2020 in South Asia

India overtook Maldives to command the highest WBL score in the South Asian region in 2020. The World Bank study mentions the measure taken by the state of Maharashtra to eliminate restrictions on women’s ability to work in jobs deemed dangerous.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 22, 2020, 02.45 PM IST
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Women, on average, have just three-fourths of the legal rights afforded to men globally, as per the WBL study.
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ET INTELLIGENCE GROUP: India gained 4% year-on-year on its score on the World Bank study of women, business and law (WBL) 2020. The country scored 74.4 out of the perfect score of 100 on the WBL Index. The World Bank study analyses laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies across the eight indicators - mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets and pension.

India overtook Maldives to command the highest WBL score in the South Asian region in 2020. The World Bank study mentions the measure taken by the state of Maharashtra to eliminate restrictions on women’s ability to work in jobs deemed dangerous.

Incidentally, India’s score aligns with the global mean. Women, on average, have just three-fourths of the legal rights afforded to men globally, as per the WBL study.

However, among the BRICS countries, India’s score is only second to the last. With a score of 88.1 points, South Africa tops the WBL index, followed by Brazil at 81.9 points. Even as China scored 1.2 points higher than India in the WBL index, its absolute score dropped marginally over the previous year.

The study finds that over time, reforms increasing women’s equality of opportunity contribute to more successful economies, higher female labour force participation and better development outcomes. Over the last two years, 40 economies from all regions and income groups have made women’s economic empowerment a priority by executing 62 reforms facilitating women’s entry into the workforce.

Year on Year Change in the WBL Scores
Countries WBL 2019 Score WBL 2020 Score
South Asia
India 71.3 74.4
Maldives 73.8 73.8
Nepal 53.1 73.8
Bhutan 69.4 71.9
Sri Lanka 65.6 68.1
Pakistan 46.3 49.4
Bangladesh 49.4 49.4
Afghanistan 38.1 38.1
BRICS
South Africa 88.1 88.1
Brazil 81.9 81.9
China 76.3 75.6
Russia 73.1 73.1
Source: World Bank Women, Business and Law Studies 2019 and 2020

The economies that improved the most are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Nepal, South Sudan, São Tomé and Príncipe, Bahrain, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Jordan, and Tunisia. Only eight economies among the 190 score the perfect 100 on the WBL Index. These are Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Sweden and Canada.

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

To be sure, the WBL study measures only the formal laws and regulations governing women’s ability to work or own businesses — a country’s norms and practices aren’t captured by the indicators.

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