EDITORIAL: Equal Opportunity For Women Will Boost Growth

EDITORIAL
Mint, New Delhi

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Researchers have developed an index of gender disparity in terms of legal rights. The index measures the legal barriers women face when it comes to exercising the same economic freedoms available to men in their countries. There are five components to the index of gender disparity–freedom of movement, property rights, financial rights, freedom to work and legal status.

New Delhi

The new report on economic freedom in the world was released by the Fraser Institute last week. One of the interesting innovations in the report is to adjust the data by also considering the economic freedom of women in various countries.

The results are stunning. Several countries move up and down the ranking once the legal status of women is considered. The adjusted rankings also underline the point that the economic freedom of women is too often ignored in the broader narrative about open economies.

For example, the United Arab Emirates was the fifth most open economy in the world in 2013. Its rank plummeted to 74 once the overall ranking is adjusted for the economic freedom of its women. Slovenia climbs from 92 to 72 in the adjusted ranking. India was at 95 that year (though it subsequently slipped down in 2014, the year with the latest data). The adjusted score for India in 2013 was 92. So, Slovenia and India were more or less the same when it came to general economic freedom; the gap widens once the economic freedom of women is specifically taken into account.

The Fraser Institute and its research partners–including the Centre for Civil Society in New Delhi–have developed an index of gender disparity in terms of legal rights. This measures the legal barriers women face when it comes to exercising the same economic freedom available to men in their countries. There are five components to the index of gender disparity–freedom of movement, property rights, financial rights, freedom to work and legal status. The general lesson is that Muslim countries fare badly when it comes to the legal protections offered to women to take advantage of economic freedom. The European countries do very well, especially some of those that were once under communist rule. India does not do badly in terms of the legal rights of women–but not so well that its economic freedom score adjusted for the legal rights of women takes it far up the ranks.

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