Egypt ranks 175th among 190 countries on World Bank’s 2024 Women, Business and the Law index.. the reality is dimmer

Press Release

8 April 2024

The World Bank released its annual report titled “Women, Business and the Law” (WBL) to track the barriers women face in joining the global workforce and economies. Egypt ranked 175th on the list of 190 countries.

Over the past ten years, the report only considered the legal barriers that prevent women’s participation in the labour market and economies in a narrow sense. However, this year’s report, released in March, included indicators on protection from violence and childcare services. It sought to provide a parallel methodology examining the gap between local laws and whether mechanisms exist to implement them on the ground.

This year’s report revealed a dimmer global reality: a “massive, wider-than-expected global gender gap”. The report noted that no country provides equal opportunity for women—not even the wealthiest economies. Despite the overall dim picture and the low average, Egypt was far behind on the WBL index. 

Egypt’s indicators were similar to those of last year, with the country moving down the rankings by four places while other countries advanced. Egypt ranked 175th out of 190 economies. The general index measures women’s status in eight areas: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension. It does this through questions about legal frameworks, supportive policies, and the reality of practice.

According to the report, Egypt scored 50.6 out of 100.0 on the general index, while the global average is 77. The country scored 37.5 on the index of legal protection against violence and childcare, while the worldwide average is 64. On the parallel index that measures regulations and executive mechanisms of laws, Egypt scored less than 27, while the global average is 40.

The enormous disparity between the indicators of equality in law and equality in its application—although Egypt’s ranking on both is low—is due to the country’s tendency to theoretically remove legal obstacles to women’s participation in some areas but not develop policies to ensure achieving equality.

While the government policies in Egypt regarding women’s work rely on supporting what it calls “women’s entrepreneurship” as a single course, Egypt’s score on the legal framework index did not exceed 50, while its score on the index that measures enforcement mechanisms stood at zero.

The sole index on which Egypt scored 100 is the pension index, while the country’s score on the executive index of the law itself reported 25. As expected, Egypt’s worst legal indicators were reported in pay and marriage, with a zero score on each index, followed by the parenthood index. One of the worst scores for Egypt was in pay, with the country scoring zero on both the legal and supportive frameworks indexes that measure equal pay between women and men, as well as the mechanisms applied to achieve equal pay and equal access to high-paying jobs.

Despite their limited view of women’s participation in business and economy and addressing women’s work not as a right but as an opportunity to increase the GDP, the indicators show a dim reality of business and economic equality between women and men in Egypt. This is only an indicator of gender equality, not the quality of work and economic life of all Egyptians.

Looking at the actual fundamental indicators of women’s participation in business in Egypt, the latest official statistics announced by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) show that women made up 15.3% of the total workforce in Egypt in the third quarter of 2023. Statistics also show that women represent 47.6% of the unemployed, which does not reflect the reality of all women who want to work but cannot find suitable jobs. The employment gap between women and men has been growing since 2012.

As for pay, a report released by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) last year noted that the average income for women in the private sector was less than the minimum wage. As for assets, the 2021 Egyptian Family Health Survey showed that less than 5% of women previously married in Egypt own a home individually or jointly, and less than 2% of women in Egypt own land separately or jointly.

A graph showing the change in the number of employed persons by gender during the period between 2009 and 2022 (The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics)

While the Egyptian government persistently presents itself as a protector of women’s rights at international forums, and despite the successive joint ventures with international funding organizations and various state agencies under the pretext of empowering women in Egypt, the report shows a small aspect of the reality of gender equality in Egypt in terms of business and economy. The report measures laws and mechanisms but does not look at the reality of women’s participation in the workforce, nor does it consider the disparity in pay, opportunities, and ownership. Moreover, the report did not seek expert opinions to identify women’s status in practice.

The report adds a new reason for calling Egypt to work seriously on achieving equality for women as a basis in economic policies instead of cosmetic interventions to improve a bleak reality through initiatives for entrepreneurship and participation in the board of directors of companies. Practically, women in Egypt suffer at the level of business and economy in particular, in addition to the severe economic crisis that all Egyptians suffer from.

The crisis of disqualifying female teachers who won the 30,000 teachers’ competition last year due to being overweight, pregnant or lacking fitness is an ideal example of the state’s employment policies, which affect gender equality in the labour market broadly without any comment or intervention to redress this discrimination. The education sector is the largest employer of women, employing more than 25% of the female workforce in Egypt. This inequality reminds us all of the importance of guaranteeing constitutional rights for all Egyptians to prevent discrimination and establish an official commission to prevent discrimination and establish equality between women and men.