Women’s battle for equal rights under the law has progressed significantly in a number of countries, but many other nations still have much room for improvement to establish societies that uphold women’s equality and dignity.
So, what’s the solution to decreasing this gender gap worldwide? There’s considerable evidence that the best environment to promote equality is a free market economy that emphasizes a strong rule of law, regulatory efficiency, and open markets.
The World Bank Group’s Women, Business and the Law 2021 annual report outlines the importance of gender equality for women’s economic empowerment and involvement in business. The report scores and ranks 190 countries in eight areas: mobility, pay, parenthood, assets, workplace, marriage, entrepreneurship, and pensions.
Putting those results together with the rankings from The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom reveals the importance for economic freedom in promoting women’s equality. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
For example, New Zealand, the second-most economically free country in the world, according to the Index of Economic Freedom, received a 97.5 out of 100 on the Women, Business and the Law index, supporting the notion that free market economies empower and enable women to make their own life choices.
Similarly, the fifth-most economically free economy in the world, Ireland, scored a perfect 100 on the Women, Business and the Law index.
By contrast, countries such as Pakistan, ranked 152nd on Heritage’s index, and Lebanon, ranked 154th, both scored below 60 on the 2021 Women, Business and the Law index.
Because these economically unfree countries do not have fair and dependable rule of law, regulatory efficiency, or open markets, and usually have large, powerful governments that intrude into people’s lives, their women can be subject to oppression and even abuse.
While the Women, Business and the Law index does not directly answer the question of how to create an equal society, the report points out—in accord with The Heritage Foundation’s annual Index of Economic Freedom—the importance of strong property rights and judicial integrity, and effectiveness in creating an equal and prosperous society for women and men alike.
One of the foundations for economic freedom is the upholding of a just rule of law, which includes the protection of property rights and judicial effectiveness.
In countries that have a strong rule of law, such as Ireland and New Zealand, women are more inclined “to leverage assets for economic gain, increasing their financial security and providing them with the collateral needed to start a business,” according to the Women, Business and the Law 2021 report.
A strong rule of law that includes protection of physical and intellectual property not only grants a woman the autonomy to establish her own business, but also gives her the ability to fairly and equally compete in the market.
Similarly, when the laws in place are effectively and justly carried out by a society’s judicial system, a woman recognizes that laws are in place for her protection and are in her best interest.
Unfortunately, in countries where property rights are ignored, and the law fails to justly protect its people, a woman is usually the first to be given the short end of the stick. She is discouraged from contributing to the market because there do not exist laws that protect her entrepreneurial ability or grant her entrepreneurial liberty.
While a strong rule of law proves essential to women’s equality, so do regulatory efficiency, including business, labor, and monetary freedom; and open-market policies, such as trade, investment, and financial freedom.
Heritage’s annual index outlines how regulatory efficiency encourages entrepreneurship, and when women are allowed the ability to creatively and freely enter the marketplace as both buyers and sellers, economic growth results.
Creating just and equal laws that hold our nations accountable in respecting and upholding women’s equality is essential. And, in fact, economic freedom is the proven foundation for empowering women with greater and more opportunities.
Having economic freedom allows women the liberty to own their labor, as well as exercise their entrepreneurial spirits to the greatest possible degree.
That’s the ultimate way to empower women.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal