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Unequal standing

The latest Women, Business and the Law report of the Washington-based World Bank gave the Philippines a score of 78.8 out of 100 on the index in 2021, the same score the country got at the start of the pandemic in 2020, but a decline from the pre-pandemic score of 81.3.

The country’s score is just slightly above the global average of 76.5, indicating that the world has achieved only about three-quarters of good practice legislation as measured by the indicators. For East Asia and the Pacific region, the average score is lower at 71.9.

The WBL index measures the laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies. It presents eight indicators structured around women’s interactions with the law as they move through their careers, including mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets and pension.

The Philippines scored 100 in three indicators, namely workplace, pay and entrepreneurship; 75 each in pension and mobility; and 60 in marriage, parenthood and assets.

In terms of marriage, the WB noted that no country has instituted reforms to address women’s rights to divorce and remarry since 2020. As such, 46 economies still restrict a woman’s right to obtain a divorce, and 68 economies do not give women equal rights to remarry. The Philippines is one of only two economies in the study that still does not permit legal divorce.

Only 12 economies – Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain and Sweden – scored 100, which means that women are on equal standing with men across all areas measured.

Although the Philippines had been making significant strides towards gender equality in recent years, the rise of misogyny in the country’s leadership and perhaps the pandemic has resulted in the country backsliding in terms of providing equal opportunities for women. The country may fare better than the global and regional average in the WBL index but if the stagnation and slippage is not addressed, all the gains we have achieved for gender equality will unfortunately be lost.

Our country can do better because we have already achieved it in the past. We just need to keep our focus on the continuous quest to build a better society and provide opportunities for all Filipinos, regardless of gender.*

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December 2022
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