The Women's Economic Opportunity Index
The Women’s Economic Opportunity (WEO) Index is a pilot effort to assess the laws, regulations, practices, and attitudes that affect women workers and entrepreneurs.
Background and key findings
The WEO Index uses 26 indicators, selected and validated by a panel of gender experts, to evaluate every aspect of the economic and social value chain for women, from fertility to retirement. By exploring the binding constraints that women face, it points to steps governments can take to improve opportunities for women and boost overall economic performance. Women’s economic opportunities are influenced not just by a country’s regulatory environment but also by social attitudes and customs. As a result, women’s participation in the formal labour force remains well below that of men. Women are also paid less than their male counterparts, and men continue to dominate in sectors with higher wage-earning potential, such as technology and finance. The study finds that even where legislation is intended to help women, implementation is often weak and opportunities remain limited. Nevertheless, attitudes are changing as economies develop and opportunities for women expand. Countries with stagnant or slow-growing populations increasingly realise that women are essential to an expanding labour force.
Sweden, Belgium and Norway occupy the top spots in the Index. These countries have particularly open labour markets for women, high levels of educational achievement, and liberal legal and social regimes.
Hong Kong (China) performs best in the Asia region, ranking in the top 25% in most categories. Mauritius is Africa’s best finisher; its labour policies are among the most favourable to women in the region.
Inequality in labour opportunities and outcomes can occur because a disproportionate share of unpaid work falls on women. Social protection schemes, such as the provision of maternity leave and benefits, help to mitigate this.
Women often face greater difficulties than men in securing credit due to a lack of collateral. Women’s access to property is restricted either by law or custom in many countries, leaving them with few assets.
Many women face greater barriers than men in setting up businesses. Women’s enterprises are often particularly small and concentrated in the retail or services sectors. This calls for training programmes in management to provide the skills needed to run a successful business.
June 2010 report
Find out in the June 2010 report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The report presents the Women's Economic Opportunity Index - which assesses the laws, regulations, practices, and attitudes that affect women an entrepreneurs. The index uses 26 indicators, and encompasses a mix of both quantitative and qualitative methods to measure specific attributes of the environment for women employees and entrepreneurs in 113 economies.
Watch this six-minute animation that tells the story through data visualisation of where women stand in the business world from issues ranging from maternity leave to property rights.