Thu | Jun 20, 2019

George Davis | World Bank report wrong about women in Jamaica

Published:Tuesday | March 5, 2019 | 12:15 AM

The 2019 Women, Business and Law Report, which measured gender discrimination and how it affected work in 187 countries, was published last week by the World Bank.

The report examines eight key indicators influencing economic decisions made by women during their working lives.

After examining the report, I have concluded that its assumption about Jamaica is wrong. And I am left to wonder if a misleading picture about the issue of gender inequality has not been unwittingly painted by the World Bank through its publication of this report.

The report essentially assesses whether there are legal impediments preventing women from enjoying the same freedoms and benefits as men.

Those eight indicators captured in the study are:

1. ‘Going Places’ – which examines constraints in freedom of movement,

2. ‘Starting a Job’ – which analyses laws affecting women’s decisions to work,

3. ‘Getting Paid’ – which examines laws/regulations affecting women’s pay,

4. ‘Getting Married’ – which assesses legal constraints related to marriage,

5. ‘Having Children’ – which examines laws affecting women’s work after having children,

6. ‘Running a Business’ – which looks at constraints related to women starting and running a business,

7. ‘Managing Assets’ – which considers gender differences in property and inheritance, and finally,

8. ‘Getting a Pension’ – which assesses laws affecting the size of a woman’s pension.

Each indicator is scored out of 100, with the sum of the individual scores then divided by eight to determine a country’s final rank.

Those countries with an overall rank of 100 were said to have the most equal societies. Only six countries, all European (of course), scored 100: France, Belgium, Denmark, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Imagine my disappointment when I finally found Jamaica, tucked away in the data set with a lowly rank of 68.13, behind a whopping 131 of the 187 countries captured in the report. Jamaica was ranked behind Caribbean neighbours such as Antigua and Barbuda (69.38), Barbados (73.75), the Dominican Republic (88.75) and Grenada (71.88).

Jamaica fared worst under the indicator,‘Having Children’, with the World Bank researchers giving us a score of just 20 per cent.

In essence, the World Bank, based on the aim of the research, can be saying two things about Jamaica under this indicator. It’s either saying Jamaica has laws that make it very difficult for women to find work or continue working after having children.

Or it could be saying that Jamaica’s laws surrounding maternity facilitation for women are either woefully weak or non-existent.

FALSITY OF CONCLUSION

Whichever way the bank is going on this point, it is wrong, very wrong. Section Four of Jamaica’s Maternity Leave Act makes it clear that a worker granted maternity leave shall return to work in the capacity they were before proceeding on leave and under the same terms of their contract as they enjoyed before taking leave. Rights, including pension, seniority and others, shall not be affected by the absence of the worker due to maternity leave.

So the World Bank is saying that Jamaica’s laws severely disadvantage those women who have children while working.

That conclusion is a malicious wrong.

The World Bank report also scores Jamaica at a lowly 25 per cent where women ‘Starting a Job’ is concerned. Again, the report concludes that there are laws either constraining the decision of Jamaican women to work or limiting the scope of said women to work.

I need not quote any scripture to prove the falsity of this conclusion.

To add insult to serious injury, the World Bank report marks Jamaica at only 50 per cent in the area of women ‘Getting Paid’ for work done. Once more, the report concludes that there are laws on the books affecting the ability of Jamaican women to get paid for their labour.

Hogwash.

The picture painted by the report is that in countries such as Jamaica, women in the workplace and broader society are in desperate need of rescue from draconian laws affecting how they earn, what they earn, how they move, and even whether they can start a business.

The World Bank’s interim president, Kristalina Georgieva, says the report highlights the role that women must play in creating a more prosperous world and the laws preventing them from so doing.

Well, Ms Georgieva, I am not saying it’s perfect in Jamaica or that there isn’t still discrimination against women in the workplace. But the verdict passed by your researchers about this country and its women in employment is wrong.

Selah.

George Davis is a broadcast executive producer and talk-show host. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and george.s.davis@hotmail.com.