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Measuring the Legal Environment in Practice

The data shared here is part of the pilot “Measuring the law in practice” dataset, and was collected between October 2, 2021, and October 1, 2022. Based on the lessons learned from the pilot, the team refined its approach, including the methodology and questions. The new methodology and data will be presented in the 2024 edition of the Women, Business and the Law report, to be published in March 2024.


Implementation and enforcement of laws are critical barriers to gender equality. Gaps between laws on the books and actual practice restrict the full realization of women’s rights and opportunities all over the world. To present a fuller picture of the legal environment, Women, Business and the Law (WBL) is expanding its focus on the implementation gap by collecting new data in more economies. Starting with the collection of supportive frameworks and expert opinion data for 25 economies in 2021, the team expanded its reach to 55 economies in 2022, and is now currently collecting data for 190 economies. The new dataset for 190 economies, to be published in the 2024 edition of the Women, Business and the Law report, will capture the existence of key policy instruments and practices that support the implementation of laws in eight areas WBL currently measures in its legal index, and in two new areas: violence against women (safety) and childcare.

Data highlights the steps that governments are taking to implement and enforce their laws, including through programs, services, incentives, budgetary allocations, policies and so on. Pilot data indicates that all 55 economies have room to strengthen the implementation of key laws for women employees and entrepreneurs in practice, especially in aspects related to the WBL Pay, Entrepreneurship and Assets indicators. Even in areas with strong foundational legislation, implementation and enforcement of laws is lacking.

Expert opinions were also collected to gain a broader understanding of gender equality on the ground. Respondents of expert opinion survey identified numerous gaps in the implementation of laws in their countries, even among economies that score above average on the legal index.

While only preliminary, the findings of the Pilot data confirm that laws alone are not enough to improve gender equality and make clear that these gaps should be further explored. This set of measures provides a starting point for continued focus on this work. By improving these measures in subsequent years, Women, Business and the Law hopes to deliver a fully developed framework that will allow more women to enforce their rights, boosting women’s economic inclusion and labor force participation worldwide.

The team welcomes feedback on the methodology and construction of this set of indicators, and it looks forward to improving their coverage and scope. Comments can be offered by contacting the Women, Business and the Law team at wbl@worldbank.org.

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2023