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Data: World Bank Group; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Only six countries have laws that give women equal economic opportunity to men: Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden, according to a new World Bank report.

Why it matters: The global average scores showed that, on average, women are afforded only three-quarters the legal rights of men in the categories chosen for the study. And legal opportunity is the bare minimum, as laws do not solve discriminatory societal pressures or cultural biases.

All nations studied made progress in legal equality over the past decade, but "this is just a first step in the right direction," Rita Ramalho, a lead author of the report, told Axios.

  • The U.S. isn't even in the top 60 nations for legal environments that promote women in business.
  • 35 nations have implemented laws against sexual harassment in the workplace over the past decade. In the past two years, the #MeToo movement has spread from the U.S. to the world, drawing attention to toxic work environments for women.
  • 33 economies introduced laws that require businesses to offer paid paternity leave. The U.S. has no federal paid family leave policy.
  • Sub-Saharan African nations saw some of the biggest gains in legal equality over the past decade. But it is largely because many of these nations were so far behind the others 10 years ago, according to the study's authors.

The big picture: Where there are more laws protecting equal opportunity, there is higher participation among women in the workforce and they get paid more, the report found.

"This is an equality issue. But behind it is very much an economic issue, an economic argument."
— Rita Ramalho

About the study: The World Bank looked at laws that allow women to move, start a job, get paid, marry, have children, run a business, manage assets or receive a pension as easily as men.

Go deeper: U.S. women are now more educated than men, but lag in workforce

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