Ability of Women to Register Business in Pakistan Remains Restricted: World Bank

Pakistan lifted restrictions on women’s ability to work at night, but did not convert into law a decree that would permanently equalize men’s and women’s ability to register a business, says the World Bank.

The Bank in its latest report “Women, Business and the Law”, noted that Pakistan restricted a woman’s ability to register a business.

Despite an amendment in August 2020, the Companies Act still restricts a woman’s ability to register a business, leaving discriminatory provisions in Articles 31 and 37 intact that require a married woman to provide details about her husband when signing the company memorandum and articles of association. A presidential ordinance of May 2019 repealed these discriminatory articles; however, the ordinance expired after 120 days, having failed to be ratified by Pakistan’s senate and national assembly, it added.

The report noted that five countries introduced reforms in the Pay indicator: Bahrain, Benin, Burundi, Pakistan, and Vietnam. Bahrain and Burundi mandated equal remuneration for work of equal value. Bahrain and Vietnam eliminated all legal restrictions on women’s employment, while Benin struck down restrictions on women’s ability to work in industrial jobs, and Pakistan removed restrictions on women’s ability to work at night.

The Bank stated that the global pace of reforms toward equal treatment of women under the law has slumped to a 20-year low, constituting a potential impediment to economic growth at a critical time for the global economy.

In 2022, the global average score on the World Bank’s Women, Business, and the Law index rose just half a point to 77.1—indicating women, on average, enjoy barely 77 percent of the legal rights that men do. At the current pace of reform, in many countries, a woman entering the workforce today will retire before she will be able to gain the same rights as men, the report notes.

“At a time when global economic growth is slowing, all countries need to mobilize their full productive capacity to confront the confluence of crises besetting them,” said Indermit Gill, Chief Economist of the World Bank Group and Senior Vice President for Development Economics. “Governments can’t afford to sideline as much as half of their population. Denying equal rights to women across much of the world is not just unfair to women; it is a barrier to countries’ ability to promote green, resilient, and inclusive development”.

Women, Business and the Law 2023 assesses 190 countries’ laws and regulations in eight areas related to women’s economic participation—mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pensions. The data—which are current through Oct. 1, 2022—offer objective and measurable benchmarks for global progress toward legal gender equality. Today, just 14 countries—all high-income economies—have laws that give women the same rights as men.

Worldwide, nearly 2.4 billion women of working age still do not have the same rights as men. Closing the gender employment gap could raise long-term GDP per capita by nearly 20% on average across countries. Studies estimate global economic gains of $5-6 trillion if women started and scaled new businesses at the same rate as men do.

In 2022, only 34 gender-related legal reforms were recorded across 18 countries—the lowest number since 2001. Most reforms focused on increasing paid leave for parents and fathers, removing restrictions to women’s work, and mandating equal pay. It will take another 1,549 reforms to reach substantial legal gender equality everywhere in the areas measured by the report. At the current pace, the report, notes, it would take at least 50 years on average to reach that target.

The latest Women, Business and the Law report provide a comprehensive assessment of global progress toward gender equality in the law over the past 50 years. Since 1970, the global average Women, Business, and Law score has improved by about 2/3, rising from 45.8 to 77.1 points.

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