Economic freedom, the ability of individuals to make their own economic decisions, has been widely shown to promote economic and social progress – a more robust economy, higher levels of income, increased trust and honesty in government, protection of civil liberties, reduction in poverty and improvements in health and educational outcomes. Unfortunately, in many countries economic freedom and the institutions that protect it are not equally accessible to all members of society.
Consider that women in many places are barred from moving freely within their countries and abroad; face barriers in owning property; cannot register a business in the same way as men; and are unable to open a bank account or obtain loans. Their testimony in court does not carry the same weight as men’s; they face restrictions on the number of hours they can work, and the type of profession they are allowed to pursue; and they are unable to enter into contracts in the same way as men.
A 2016 study, Gender Disparity in Legal Rights and Its Effect on Economic Freedom, introduced a Gender Disparity Index that captures the degree to which women around the world have the same legal rights as men using several measures to capture gender disparity, including freedom of movement, property rights, financial rights, freedom to work, and legal status.
The Fraser Institute, which publishes Economic Freedom of the World, has incorporated gender disparity in its 2017 Economic Freedom Index and rankings.
Women and Progress is a project that measures the impact of economic freedom, adjusted for gender disparity, on women’s well-being. When women are free to make their own economic decisions, they are able to live better, wealthier, and healthier lives with greater independence.