Women's Economic Rights—What's Changed and Why Does It Matter?

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Despite improvements worldwide, fifty-four countries imposed greater restrictions on the economic rights of women over a recent two-year period, finds a new study released by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank, in recognition of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Economic freedom is the ability of individuals to own property, decide what to buy, where to work, whether to start a business, engage in trade or even open a bank account.

“In countries where men and women enjoy the same economic rights, women live longer, healthier lives while also benefiting society by increasing economic activity and prosperity,” said Rosemarie Fike, Fraser Institute senior fellow, economics instructor at Texas Christian University and author of this year’s Women and Progress report.

This year’s report, Women's Economic Rights—What's Changed and Why Does It Matter? tracks changes in economic freedom for women around the world and finds that 83 countries improved women’s economic rights from 2016 to 2018.

But again, during the same two-year period, 54 countries imposed greater restrictions on women’s economic rights.

For instance, currently, 37 countries restrict the ability of married women to obtain passports, and 17 restrict their ability to simply travel outside their home.

What’s more, 13 countries restrict a woman’s right to own property, and 39 countries restrict their ability to inherit property. And in five countries—Cameroon, Chad, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau and Niger—there are even restrictions on a woman’s ability to open a bank account.

“This International Women’s Day, let’s take meaningful steps to improve the lives of women and girls everywhere by encouraging equal access to the institutions that help protect economic rights and allow women worldwide the ability to make their own economic decisions,” Fike said.

The Women and Progress report is part of the Fraser Institute’s internationally-renowned Economic Freedom of the World.

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