Women, Business and the Law 2010 report: Methodology
Table of Contents
At the inception of the project, the Gender Law Library created to provide a public repository of laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunities. The 6 sets of indicators were created by examining the information in the library to see what laws most affect women’s business rights. Legislation from across the legal spectrum was found to affect women’s economic potential, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. The indicators capture laws that directly differentiate between men and women as well as laws that indirectly have more impact on women given their likelihood of being secondary income earners, microfinance clients, and small business owners.
To condense such a large volume of disparate information, broadly based legal questions were posed to determine where women and men have the same rights and where they have different rights. Constitutions, gender equality laws, marriage and family codes, labor laws, passport procedures, citizenship rules, inheritance statutes, tax regulations, land laws, and social security codes were consulted to determine the sources of gender differentiation in the law. Responses from Doing Business 2010 on paying taxes getting credit and enforcing contracts were also used. The data from the surveys were checked for accuracy by referencing the law, which led to revisions or expansions of the information collected.
The Women, Business and the Law methodology offers several advantages. It is transparent and uses factual information directly from laws and regulations. Because standard assumptions are used when collecting data for the 6 areas covered, comparisons are valid across economies. Finally, the data identify both potential obstacles to women in business and legislative sources that can be reformed.
The report’s focus on written legislation does not ignore the often large gap between laws on the books and actual practices: it recognizes that women do not always have access to the equality that should formally be theirs. But given the difficulty of measuring what happens in practice, the law is used to determine the minimum number of economies that may have issues with gender equality for each of the 6 areas studied.
The lack of autonomy to interact with government institutions or conduct official transactions may limit a woman’s access to resources and services and restrict her ability to get a job or be an entrepreneur. This indicator explores women’s legal ability to interact with public authorities and the private sector in the same ways as men. It does so by examining the following 11 areas of government regulation: business registration procedures, contractual abilities, citizenship laws, employment consent regulations, evidentiary weights, head of household designations, obedience requirements, passport rules, property rights, tax policies, and travel restrictions. For the purposes of this indicator, women are considered to have less capacity to act if they have fewer rights than men in any one of the areas examined. Read more.
This indicator examines women’s ability to access and use property based on their ability to own, manage, control, and inherit it. The ability to access, manage and control property can be especially important in lower income countries where women are more likely to work in family enterprises and their income can hinge on their access to property. Read more.
Getting a job
This indicator assesses restrictions on women’s work such as prohibitions on working at night or in certain industries. It also covers laws on maternity and paternity protection and retirement ages. Some differentiations in labor law may increase opportunities for women while others may limit them. Parental leave policies are generally expected to allow for a more equitable division of childrearing responsibilities, giving women the same opportunities for career advancement as men, but restrictions on hours or industries designed to protect women may end up limiting their ability to get the jobs of their choice. Gender differentiated retirement ages may affect career prospects, lifetime earnings, pension benefits and retirement savings. Read more.
Dealing with taxes
This indicator examines personal income tax liabilities, taking into account the tax credits and deductions available to women and men. Gender differences in tax treatment may affect women’s decision to work. Women may have more incentives to participate in the labor market where equal income distribution is favored by tax rules. Read more
This indicator identifies minimum loan thresholds in private credit bureaus and public credit registries and tracks credit bureaus and registries that collect information from microfinance institutions. Low minimum loan thresholds are better for small businesses—many of which are owned by women—because they tend to take out small loans. Even with small loans, these businesses can build credit histories when the credit bureau or registry establishes low thresholds for inclusion in their database. And since women make up the majority of microfinance users, they are more likely to benefit from credit bureaus and registries that collect and distribute microfinance data. Having this record can allow women to graduate to larger loans and conventional finance. Read more.
Going to court
This indicator considers the ease and affordability of access to justice by examining the existence of small claims courts, as well as the maximum amount of claims they cover. Small claims courts can make dispute resolution more accessible to the poor and small business owners by providing easier access to the legal system. Simplified access to dispute resolution can help women owned businesses—most of which tend to be smaller—by allowing for lower cost and speedier resolution of disputes. Read more
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