Lawful Progress: Unveiling the Laws That Reshape Women’s Work Decisions

Authored by: Anna Fruttero, Diego B.P. Gomes, and Nishtha Sharma

Categories: Human Rights, The Field of Women, Peace and Security
Sub-Categories: Economic Participation
Region: No Region
Year: 2023
Citation: Fruttero, Anna, Diego B. P. Gomes, and Nishtha Sharma. "Lawful Progress: Unveiling the Laws That Reshape Women’s Work Decisions." IMF Working Paper 252 (2023).

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Executive Summary

This paper examines the impact of women’s legal rights on labor force participation decisions made by women and men through a granular analysis of 35 gendered laws. Building on previous literature, it departs from the analysis using aggregate indices due to concerns about (i) the usability of an index for policymaking purposes, (ii) the economic interpretation of an index’s average marginal effects, (iii) and the implicit assumption of homogeneous effects underlying regressions with an index. The findings identify nine key laws that can foster female labor force participation. Notably, laws related to household dynamics and women’s agency within the family, such as divorce and property rights laws, and laws regarding the ability of women to travel outside the home, are especially important in influencing their decision to work. The paper also shows that improving women’s legal rights does not improve their labor force participation through a substitution effect as it has no systematic negative effect on men’s labor force participation.