Bhutan scores lowest on indicators measuring childcare

YK Poudel

Legal rights, policy instruments and its practice are still a barrier to women’s economic empowerment, according to a World Bank report.

The report, Women, Business and the Law 2024 (WBL, 2024), studied in 164 economies identifies these barriers for Bhutan too. The data on legal frameworks, supportive frameworks, and expert opinions were studied from Thimphu, the business hub of the country.

Bhutan scored 52.5 percent in the legal framework,  which is lower than the global average of 64.2 and higher than the regional average of 45.9 percent. However, in terms of laws affecting women’s pay, Bhutan obtains a perfect score of 100 percent.

Global report reveals gender disparities in economic empowerment

One of the lowest scores for Bhutan under the legal framework is on the indicator measuring laws affecting childcare. “Bhutan should consider legally establishing provision of childcare services in center-based settings, introducing legislation on any form of support to families for childcare services, putting in place legislation on any form of support to non-state child care providers and adopting legislation on quality standards for the provision of childcare services in center-based settings,” the report suggests.

Similarly on the supportive framework score, Bhutan scored just 15 percent which is lower than the global average of 39.5 percent as well as the regional score of 31.1 percent. This presents that Bhutan does not attain a perfect score on any of the WBL 2.0 supportive frameworks indicators demanding an improvement.

“For example, women’s safety was one of the lowest scores for Bhutan. To improve on the safety indicator, Bhutan should invest in developing comprehensive mechanisms to address violence against women, putting in place special procedures for cases of sexual harassment,” the report suggests.

Bhutan scored 85 percent on expert opinion—this is higher than the global average of 65.7 percent as well as the regional average of 43.5 percent. Further, Bhutan obtains a perfect score of 100 in terms of women on marriage, property and inheritance and pensions.

This report aimed at examining the laws affecting the economic decisions that women make throughout their working lives, the frameworks supporting the implementation of those laws, and the opinions of experts on women’s outcomes.


Global view

Although countries across the world have made substantial progress in enacting laws to provide equal opportunity for women, half of population—3.9 billion women worldwide—face legal barriers affecting their economic participation.

According to the WBL report expert opinions index, about 66 percent of women enjoy equal rights with men, pointing to real-world implementation issues.

Although economies have made notable progress over the decades in enacting equal opportunity laws for women, women still enjoy less than two-thirds of the legal rights available to men. Thirty-seven economies grant women less than half of the legal rights of men to the detriment of half a billion women. The gap is even wider in practice than equal opportunity laws on the books suggest.

Effective implementation of laws depends on an adequate supporting framework like strong enforcement mechanisms, a system for tracking gender-related pay disparities, and the availability of services for women who survive violence.

Although the laws on the books imply that women enjoy roughly 64 percent of the rights of men, economies have, on average, established less than 40 percent of the systems needed for full implementation.

In general, women face significant obstacles in a variety of areas. On  entrepreneurship, it is only 44 percent globally, women earn just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men and 92 economies lack provisions mandating equal pay for work of equal value.

Similarly, on nationality rights—a woman cannot pass her nationality to children in the same way as a man in 28 economies. In 50 economies, a woman does not enjoy an equal right to confer citizenship on her foreign spouse. On retirement, about 62 economies women retire earlier than men and in 81 economies, women’s pension benefits do not account for periods of work absences related to childcare.