World Bank Report Launch– Women, Business and Law:

Interview of Dr Lopez-Claros

Watch the Interview of Dr Lopez-Claros

Dr Augusto Lopez-Claros, the Director of Global Indicators and Analysis with the World Bank, was interviewed by Professor Fariborz Moshirian, the Institute of Global Finance’s Director. The interview was conducted upon the launch of the World Bank’s ‘Women, Business and Law’ Report for 2014 (“the Report”). In particular, Dr Lopez-Claros addressed four key issues in relation to the report.

Firstly, Dr Lopez-Claros clarified the motivation behind the report and the type of data used to achieve the report’s aims. It was ascertained that a key facet of the report’s data set was devoted to analysing the extent to which a country’s legal instruments permitted women to fully participate in the workforce and make an economic contribution. Dr Lopez-Claros advocates the importance of this data in shedding light on the legal policies of certain nations which actively seek to restrict women from contributing to the economy. To identify the extent to which a country’s framework is conducive towards women’s participation, the report compiles data in 47 areas which are contended to restrict women’s ability to operate and do business. The report subsequently indicated that only 15 out of the 143 countries studied have no restrictions embedded in their legal framework limiting women in some form. Dr Lopez-Claros advocates that such policies lead to a misallocation of resources and are detrimental to a country’s productivity, competitiveness and ultimately economic prosperity.

Secondly, Dr Lopez-Claros discussed initiatives undertaken by OECD members to address the low participation of women in high level and public policy decision making. The first key issue relates to the participation of women on corporate boards. It was understood that Norway had taken initiative in imposing compulsory quotas for the representation of women on corporate boards. This was underpinned not only by the promotion of gender equality but also by extensive research indicating that corporate boards which had a higher representation of women led to improved company performance. Furthermore, Dr Lopez-Claros indicated that a key a structural impediment to female board representation could be attributed to a deficiency in training in corporate matters. However, he dismissed this as a transitional issue which would be resolved over time. He also highlighted the efforts of other OECD countries to adopt the quota policies implemented by Norway. The second concern was the participation of women in Parliament. In particular, Dr Lopez-Claros advocates the importance of quotas for Parliamentary positions, especially  for regions such as North Africa and the Middle East which have a low female labour force participation rate albeit a highly educated female population, given the higher correlation between women in parliament and policy settings which are conducive towards female workplace participation.

Thirdly, Dr Lopez-Claros spoke regarding the incentive structures created by governments as a means of encouraging female labour force participation. As a trend, he highlighted the strong tendency for countries with the most restrictive policies in relation to female workforce participation to have the least incentives to encourage women to make an economic contribution and vice versa. Subsequently, Dr Lopez-Claros advocated that increased incentives for women to access the labour market would benefit the country through reducing income inequality.

Fourthly, Dr Lopez-Claros discussed the future of the report. He highlighted the willingness of countries to seek inclusion within the report and amend their policy settings to ones of promoting female access to the labour force. Furthermore, he also submitted a key issue with the data set is its focus on a theoretical reading of the country’s legal frameworks, which is often at times significantly divergent to the practical reality. As a final note, Dr Lopez-Claros stressed the importance of investing in the education of women as a means of alleviating poverty.