Montreal, March 4, 2016 – They don’t have access to health care, education, or the labour market. They don’t have the right to open a bank account, or to defend themselves in court. In many countries around the world, the rights of women are still very limited. How can they enjoy greater independence and freedom?
On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the MEI is publishing a Viewpoint showing that the well-being of women is intimately connected to the degree of economic freedom that prevails in a given country.
“The facts speak for themselves. Women living in one of the 25 least economically free countries are a third less likely to know how to read and write when they reach adulthood, compared to women living in one of the 25 freest countries,” explains Pascale Déry, Senior Advisor in Communications and Development at the MEI and co-author of the publication. “Greater economic freedom also leads to higher enrolment levels for women, in terms of both secondary and post-secondary education.”
The same kind of effect can be observed when it comes to the health of women, even after having accounted for differences in standard of living. A woman living in one of the 25 least free countries is four times likelier to have her first child during her teen years, 25% less likely to have access to prenatal and postnatal care, and 20 times more likely to die during childbirth.
“Numerous studies show that prosperity improves the quality of life of women, and that women benefit from the advantages that economic freedom brings,” says Marie-Josée Loiselle, Associate Economist at the MEI and co-author of the publication.
Note that women’s economic freedom can be limited also by culture. Even if women are equal before the law, social and cultural norms can prevent them from holding property in their name, for example, or from owning a business or engaging freely in trade. For instance, Hong Kong, at the top of rankings of economic freedom, falls to 14th in the ranking of women’s economic freedom adjusted for culture. Japan, for its part, falls from 15th place in the ranking in terms of the law to 44th place in the ranking based on culture.
As for Canada, it is one of the countries where women enjoy the most economic freedom, both before the law and in terms of the culture.
“Not only does economic freedom make people from all walks of life richer, but it also goes hand in hand with nearly all of the humanitarian goals that are not strictly speaking economic,” concludes Pascale Déry.
The Viewpoint entitled “Economic Freedom and the Well-Being of Women around the World” was prepared by Pascale Déry, Senior Advisor in Communications and Development at the MEI, and Marie-Josée Loiselle, Associate Economist at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.
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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.
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