2.3.5. Resource 5: Cross-Cutting Legal, Regulatory and Policy Reform


Discriminatory legal, regulatory, and policy barriers serve as major impediments to WEEGE. Providing women with equal economic opportunities requires an integrated and equitable set of laws and policies, as well as the active commitment across all sectors to establish gender-responsive working conditions, policies, and practices. Gender inequalities exist in civil and administrative laws, regulatory employment restrictions, and occupational licensing, which—together with employment discrimination and sexual harassment—limit women’s abilities to engage in wage employment. The concerted cooperation of multiple actors—including government, private sector, donors, and gender equality experts—is required to develop and enforce the legislation and policies needed to support and incentivize WEEGE.

The vast selection of resources presented in this section examines the legal, regulatory and policy restrictions worldwide that constrain women’s abilities to be equal participants in the economy—from legislation mandating that a woman must ask a male family member for permission before opening a bank account, to rules banning women from certain jobs, to unequal inheritance and property rights. Extensive recommendations are offered for governments, policymakers, and other actors to advance the enabling environment for WEEGE.


W20—Saudi Arabia 2020 Communiqué

On the Women 20’s fifth anniversary, the world entered a highly interconnected environment characterized by technology revolutions, economic uncertainty, social unrest, and a rapidly unfolding global crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. The W20’s 2020 communiqué offers two sets of recommendations for G20 leaders, urging them to address the stark imbalances in economic opportunities and to act upon previous commitments to achieve and accelerate gender equality. The first set of eight recommendations underscore the key measures required to expedite the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The second set is intended to help the G20 to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, SDGs, and the objective of a strong, sustainable and balanced growth by supporting women’s social and economic empowerment. This second set comprises 22 recommendations across seven main themes: legal and social reforms; inclusive decision-making; equitable labor inclusion; inclusive decision-making; equitable financial inclusion; equitable digital inclusion; women’s entrepreneurship; and G20 accountability.

W20—Japan 2019 Communiqué

In the W20’s 2019 communiqué, the network endorses the statement in the Buenos Aires G20 Leaders’ Declaration that “gender equality is crucial for economic growth and fair and sustainable development,” and calls on women and men to work in partnership to close the gender gap to achieve the SDGs. In that year, the W20 paid particular attention to the inclusive and responsible use of all new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), due to their critical impact on all segments of society, to ensure no woman is left behind. The communiqué urges G20 leaders to act upon recommendations that: remove systemic legal and social barriers in the labor market and provide solutions for achieving gender equality; close the digital gender gap; ensure financial inclusion, promote women’s entrepreneurship, and accelerate access to investment and markets; promote life-long learning and education on gender equality in schools and workplaces to eliminate gender stereotypes and unconscious bias; end all forms of violence against women and girls; and establish effective and transparent governance and accountability mechanisms for achieving gender equality.

W20—Germany 2017 Communiqué: Putting Gender Equality at the Core of the G20

This communiqué emphasizes that the G20’s goal of inclusive and sustainable economic growth necessitates a commitment to women’s economic empowerment, by means of achieving the following targets: full property rights, legal capacity, right to self-determination for women and girls, and their effective protection from violence; full access to quality education for girls and women, with special attention to technical and vocational education, e-skills, and resources for women; full access to labor markets and decent working conditions for men and women; equal pay and pension rights for equal and equivalent work; GDP measurement and fair redistribution of unpaid domestic and care work; and equitable representation of women and men in decision-making positions.

W20—Argentina 2018 Menu of Actions

This document provides concrete examples of how policies aimed at helping G20 leaders achieve the 25x25 goal can be implemented in real and diverse contexts. It encourages policymakers and stakeholders to develop holistic policies toward gender equality, based on 13 recommendations.


Council on Foreign Relations—Women and the Law: Leveling the Global Economic Playing Field

This volume presents in-depth analyses and commentary on legal barriers to women’s economic participation, with a focus on five areas in which the greatest obstacles to women’s economic participation endure: financial inclusion, identification laws, land rights, workplace discrimination, and family law. The collection of essays suggest that legal reform is a critical step toward boosting women’s participation in the global economy. Compelling research demonstrates a link between stronger legal rights and improved development outcomes for women, their families, and their countries.

International Monetary Fund (IMF)—Pursuing Women’s Economic Empowerment

The paper reviews policy recommendations to foster women’s participation in economic opportunities. The room for policy intervention is large, and interventions need to be tailored to country circumstances. As recent research from the IMF and others shows, policies matter for women’s employment decisions, even after accounting for personal preferences around working. Although there is no one-size-fits-all strategy, general priorities include policies that focus on providing equal opportunities from the start, as well as measures that support women in balancing work and family responsibilities.

McKinsey Global Institute—Accelerating Gender Parity: What Can Governments Do?

This article suggests that gender equality in society is a powerful driver or determinant of gender equality in work. McKinsey Global Institute mapped 15 gender-equality indicators for 95 countries and calculated a gender-parity score for each region. The 15 indicators cover gender equality in both work and society, as the two go hand in hand. While, for most countries, absolute scores on equality in society tend to be higher than those on equality in work, McKinsey found virtually no countries with high equality on social indicators but low equality in employment and labor markets.

Overseas Development Institute—Women’s Economic Empowerment: Navigating Enablers and Constraints

This research paper argues that there is no automatic “win-win” between gender equality and wider development outcomes. Processes of empowerment require complex, multi-layered solutions. The authors identify 10 factors that can enable (or constrain) women’s economic empowerment and outline I0 policy recommendations. Two case studies show their interlinked nature. The paper also emphasizes that scaling up financial resourcing across relevant sectors will be essential; it warns that just increasing resources is not sufficient: funding must be delivered in ways that support transformative change. Finally, the paper asserts that identifying progress will involve measuring complex outcomes, through a careful longitudinal study of how women’s lives are changing.

UN High-Level Panel (UNHLP) on Women’s Economic Empowerment—Leave No One Behind: Taking Action for Transformational Change on Women’s Economic Empowerment

This report focuses on recommendations to accelerate progress on the women’s economic empowerment vital agenda. It reflects work by expert groups, including panel members and others, that have examined seven drivers for addressing systemic barriers to women’s economic empowerment, as well as macroeconomic policy. It focuses on ways to support the most marginalized women working at the base of the pyramid, in agricultural and informal work.

UNHLP on Women’s Economic Empowerment—Driver 2 Working Group Paper: Ensuring Legal Protections and Reforming Discriminatory Laws and Regulations

This paper identifies strategies to eliminate legal barriers to women’s full and equal participation in the workforce by 2030. Although it addresses four areas of women’s work—informal work, agriculture, formal employment, and women-owned enterprises—it focuses on the two most vulnerable categories, informal and agricultural workers, representing the majority of women workers in developing countries. Additionally, recommendations are proposed in three cross-cutting areas: gender-based violence, access to justice, and legal identity and nationality. As a call for action to accelerate women’s economic empowerment, this paper recognizes the need to tackle structural inequalities between men and women, as well as inequalities shared by poor women and men at the base of the economic pyramid. At the same time, the paper prioritizes measures that are transformational and achievable in the short to medium term and that have the potential to catalyze further reform.

UN Women—Macroeconomic Policy and Women’s Economic Empowerment

At its core, the economic empowerment of women—to succeed and advance economically, and to make and act on economic decisions—depends on several critical factors: the quantity and quality of paid employment; the provision or absence of public services; the amount of unpaid care work borne by women; and coverage (or lack thereof) under core social and labor protections. Macroeconomic policies are crucial enablers of gender equality, as they shape the overall economic environment for advancing women’s economic empowerment. The channels include employment creation, the level of unpaid care required of women, and governments’ fiscal capacity, which determines the resources available for governments to promote gender equality. This paper examines the five key areas where macroeconomic policies currently constrain progress towards women’s economic empowerment, and offers key recommendations for moving toward a more gender-responsive macroeconomic policy.


East-West Center—Asia Pacific Issues. Women’s Economic Empowerment and the G20 Agenda

The first Women20 dialogue focusing on the Asia-Pacific region was convened at the East-West Center in 2017 to share promising practices and offer policy recommendations for G20 leaders in seven key areas of women’s economic empowerment: ending discriminatory legislative barriers; expanding digital inclusion; increasing financial inclusion; increasing women-owned businesses in supply-chain; promoting women’s corporate leadership; recognizing the value of the unpaid care economy; and including indigenous women.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)—Women’s Economic Empowerment in Selected Middle East and North Africa Countries: The Impact of Legal Frameworks in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia

This report examines how current legal provisions in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia are impacting women’s ability to participate in economic life, both as employees and entrepreneurs. The report focuses on four main areas: women’s economic participation in the six countries; international and constitutional provisions and women’s access to justice; the impact of family law on women’s empowerment; and labor law in relation to women’s rights as employees and entrepreneurs.