Bangladesh for the past eight years has been maintaining the same score on a global index that measures legal impediments to economic opportunities for women.
From 2012 to 2020, Bangladesh's score on the Women, Business and the Law (WBL) index has neither improved nor declined.
The index is based on eight indicators – mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension. These are structured around women's interactions with the law as they begin, progress through, and end their careers.
Bangladesh showed a noticeable degree of improvement between 2009 and 2012, with its WBL index score rising from 43.8 to 49.4 during that period. The highest score is 100.
However, Bangladesh's score has remained static since 2012 at 49.4.
The only positive part of the story is that Bangladesh has been maintaining the perfect score (100) in mobility since 2009.
This means Bangladeshi women – in the same way as men – can apply for passports, travel abroad, travel outside home and choose where to live.
The WBL 2020 report, released by the World Bank Group on Tuesday, tracks how the law affects women at various stages in their lives – from the basics of transportation to the challenges of starting a job and getting a pension – in 190 economies.
The report noted that progress is being made in all regions of the world but much yet remains to be done.
Bangladesh has gender-based discrimination in employment
Although Bangladeshi women can get jobs in the same way as their male counterparts, there is no law that prohibits discrimination in employment based on gender, according to the report.
Additionally, until 2009, there was no legislation related to sexual harassment in employment in Bangladesh.
Moreover, there are no criminal penalties or civil remedies for sexual harassment in the workplace.
Gender pay gap exists
The law in Bangladesh does not mandate equal remuneration for work of equal value.
Women can work the same night hours as men, but they are not able to work in the same industries as their male counterparts.
Maternity leave not fully administered
The Bangladesh government does not administer 100 percent of maternity leave benefits, the report said.
No paid leave is available to fathers and no paid parental leave either.
Also, dismissal of pregnant workers is not prohibited by law.
Equal footing in entrepreneurship
Bangladeshi women have almost the same rights as men when it comes to starting businesses.
For example, women – in the same way as men – can sign contracts, register businesses and open bank accounts.
However, the law does not prohibit discrimination in access to credit based on gender.
In Bangladesh, men and married women have equal ownership rights to immovable property.
Also, the law grant spouses equal administrative authority over assets during marriage.
However, sons and daughters do not have equal rights in inheriting assets from their parents.
Moreover, female and male surviving spouses do not have equal rights in the inheritance of assets.
Equal mandatory retirement age
The mandatory retirement age for men and women is equal in Bangladesh.
However, the ages at which men and women can retire with full pension benefits are not equal.
This is also the case when it comes to retiring with partial pension benefits.
Besides, periods of absence due to child care are not accounted for in pension benefits.
India best, Afghanistan worst in South Asia
In South Asia, only Afghanistan is behind Bangladesh on the index. In fact, with a score of 38.1, it fared the worst among all South Asian nations.
Both Pakistan and Bangladesh share the same position – second from the bottom – on the South Asian league table, and their scores are also similar.
India topped the South Asian list, followed by the Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan.
Some South Asian nations have also introduced reforms that led to improvements. For example, Nepal introduced a new labour law that makes women's entry into the labour market easier by prohibiting discrimination in employment.
It also improved women's employment opportunities and pay by allowing women to work at night, and prohibiting discrimination in remuneration for work of equal value.
The Indian state of Maharashtra has eliminated restrictions on women's ability to work in jobs deemed dangerous.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka both increased the period of paid maternity leave to exceed 14 weeks.
High-income countries dominate index
Legal equality between men and women was found to be the highest in eight economies, with all of them being high-income nations.
Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden boast the perfect score.
This means women are on an equal legal standing with men across all eight indicators in these countries.
Of the 40 economies with scores higher than 90, 27 are Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) high-income economies, and nine are in Europe and Central Asia.
The remaining four are in Latin America and the Caribbean, East Asia and the Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa.
No economy in the Middle East and North Africa or South Asia scored above 90.