By Jenina P. Ibañez, Senior Reporter

LEGAL and economic gender equality in the Philippines registered no changes over the past year on metrics such as rights concerning parenthood, marriage, and assets, the World Bank (WB) said in a report.

The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law (WBL) 2022 report, which identifies the laws and regulations that restrict economic opportunity for women across 190 economies, gave the Philippines a score of 78.8 out of 100, unchanged from 2021. The 2020 score was 81.3.

The Philippine score exceeded the global average of 76.5 and the East Asia and Pacific average of 71.9.

The WB study uses eight indicators to compute the WBL score: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets and pensions.

A score of 100 indicates complete legal parity.

The Philippines scored 100 in the workplace, pay, and entrepreneurship indicators, but scored 75 for mobility and pensions.

The Philippine score was 60 in the marriage, parenthood, and assets categories.

“Since October 2020, no country has instituted reforms to address women’s rights to divorce and remarry,” the WB said.

“Two economies still do not permit legal divorce (Eswatini, the Philippines).”

Eylla Laire M. Gutierrez, a research manager for the Asian Institute of Management, said the report demonstrates the complexity of measuring women’s empowerment.

“Empowerment cannot be fully realized by merely providing them economic opportunities, but will also require the improvement of their psychological, social, and political empowerment,” she said via Viber.

She said the Philippines’ low scores in the marriage, parenthood, and assets indicators show that despite their active economic participation, society’s perception of women is still unequal to men.

“With these in mind, improving economic opportunities for women does not simply mean creating jobs for them or increasing the number of women participating economically,” she said.

“This also entails a re-examination of the entrenched cultural structures that influence how women participate in economies and how society perceives them.”

These cultural structures, she said, includes discrimination based on the gendered division of labor, with women expected to do unpaid domestic and care work.

Among East Asian economies, Hong Kong and Taiwan posted overall scores of 91.9 and 91.3, respectively.

Also beating the Philippines score were Laos (88.1), Timor-Leste (86.3), Mongolia (85), Vietnam (85), South Korea (85), Singapore (82.5), and Cambodia (81.3).

Japan was level with the Philippines, while Thailand (78.1), China (75.6), Indonesia (64.4), Myanmar (58.8), Brunei (52.1), and Malaysia (50) were lower.

Globally, women still have three-quarters the legal rights enjoyed by men, the report concluded.

The most progress seen in the past year were in the parenthood, pay, and workplace indicators, with many focused on protecting against sexual harassment at work, stopping discrimination, and increasing paid leave for new parents.

“While progress has been made, the gap between men’s and women’s expected lifetime earnings globally is $172 trillion — nearly two times the world’s annual GDP,” WB Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships Mari Pangestu said.

How do Filipinas fare in terms of legal gender equality?