Saudi Arabia named most improved economy for gender equality: World Bank Report

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Saudi Arabia’s economy made the biggest progress globally toward gender equality since 2017, according to a World Bank report released Wednesday.

The World Bank’s “Women, Business and the Law 2020” study, which tracks how laws affect women in 190 economies, scored Saudi Arabia’s economy 70.6 points out of 100, a dramatic increase from its previous score of 31.8 points.


Saudi Arabia was the country to make “the biggest improvement globally” since 2017 according to the World Bank press release, including advances in women’s mobility, sexual harassment, retirement age and economic activity.

The study found the Kingdom enacted reforms in six out of eight indicators associated with women’s economic empowerment, from June 2017 to September 2019.

“Saudi Arabia basically has become one of the leaders in the Arab world in terms of women empowerment,” World Bank’s Regional Director for the GCC Issam Abu Sulaiman said, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

2019 was a year of “groundbreaking” reforms that allowed women greater economic opportunity in Saudi Arabia, according to the study’s findings.

Amendments were adopted to protect women from discrimination in employment, to prohibit employers from dismissing a woman during her pregnancy and maternity leave, and to prohibit gender-based discrimination in accessing financial services.

Saudi Arabia “also equalized the retirement age for women and men at 60 years, extending women’s working lives, earnings, and contributions.”

Under the study’s mobility indicator, which measures a woman’s freedom of movement, Saudi Arabia also made significant strides due to changes in guardianship laws.

In August 2019 it was announced Saudi Arabian women above 21 would no longer need permission from a male guardian to travel abroad or obtain a passport.

Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US and the first Saudi female ambassador, said at the time the new developments for women were “history in the making.”

The report attributed the reforms to the “understanding that women play an important role in moving Saudi Arabia closer” to its Vision 2030 plan.

Spearheaded by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Vision 2030 aims to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy beyond oil and gas and to promote private sector growth and entrepreneurship. It includes the goal of increasing women’s labor force participation from 22 percent to 30 percent.

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