Legal and Regulatory Framework

Legal and Regulatory Framework

Barriers, Themes and Constraints: A Primer

Of the 190 economies surveyed in Women, Business, and the Law (World Bank Group 2020e), 90 percent have at least one law impeding women’s economic opportunities. For example, Colombia forbids women to work as industrial painters; Bangladesh forbids women to clean, lubricate, or adjust any part of machinery; and Sierra Leone forbids women from working in underground mines (World Bank Group 2020e). Restrictive legal and regulatory frameworks can render more difficult the processes to register a business or open a bank account and may prevent women from working without the permission of a husband or male family member. Women also face significant legal and regulatory barriers to ownership, access, and control over key productive assets such as land, housing, finance, insurance, and technology. Asset ownership is critical as a means of generating income, facilitating access to credit, and strengthening the ability to respond to shocks by diversifying income potential, as well as serving as a store of wealth. Constraints to ownership and control of assets that women face include family laws that disadvantage them, such as requiring a spouse’s permission to work outside the home, limited public knowledge about women’s rights, and uneven implementation and enforcement of gender-neutral laws.




Using Technology to Improve Design and Implementation of Legal and Regulatory Frameworks

Sound legal and regulatory frameworks seek to promote transparent, predictable, and nondiscriminatory processes. Digitalization can make it easier for female entrepreneurs to comply with legal and regulatory business requirements. For example, electronic transactions to obtain an ID, register a business, or obtain a business license — areas where women tend to be disadvantaged because of social norms and mobility constraints (World Bank Group 2015) — can contribute to access and transparency. Effectively deployed, technology can contribute to less discriminatory, more standardized processes and provide workable approaches to overcome some of the restrictions that women face. E-government services, such as digital cash transfers or electronic public-private dialogues (ePPD), offer the potential of better online user experiences for citizens, increased public participation, improved internal efficiency and productivity, and increased access to information, such as the data found on electronic collateral registries (United Nations 2012). Governments are beginning to actively encourage stakeholder engagement when evaluating laws and regulations related to digitalization. Digitalization can also help women’s voices to be heard in legal and regulatory formulation and implementation. For instance, public-private dialogues that employ digital tools (World Bank Group 2015) provide the opportunity for women to engage in direct conversations about business-critical issues, share insights, and develop more informed policy. Reviews of laws and regulations as well as proposed public budgeting for improvements affecting businesses can be published online for public review, soliciting comments by female and male entrepreneurs alike, to support more inclusive feedback. 

Desktop Diagnostic

The automated data-generation tool in this toolkit is available online and provides comprehensive country snapshots of the context in which female entrepreneurs and workers operate and allows for country and regional comparisons. At the click of a button, the tool generates country-level information across some 125 indicators.

Legal and Regulatory Framework

Indicator Summary Description

Legal and Regulatory Framework indicators largely follow findings published in the Women, Business, and the Law annual report and are intended to solicit information about women´s legal rights in a country. The indicators investigate national laws regarding conditions inside and outside the home, including a woman´s ability to inherit and hold assets, to access credit and sign contracts, and to receive legal protection from sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination. Taken together, the legal and regulatory indicators shed light on how valued and visible women are in a society relative to men and the extent of the progress that women have made toward gender equality. This information can highlight where further legal and policy action is needed.

Indicators & Secondary Questions Technology

Intervention Design Matrix

The matrix helps teams match barriers identified during analysis with potential interventions to lower them. It also suggests digital enablers for each intervention category and provides a corresponding project example .

The matrix is organized according to the toolkit’s four main constraint categories (legal and regulatory; access to finance; training, skills, and information; access to markets). For each category, barriers faced by women entrepreneurs are listed. These barriers are economic and social factors that may affect the general population, business community, or women as a group and, as such, represent obstacles causing WMSME growth to stagnate, such as encumbering processes for establishing and formalizing businesses, inhibiting access to the resources needed to fuel growth, and/or restricting information and communication flows among stakeholders. It is important for project teams to use the findings from the diagnostic to determine which barriers are most critical to address in project design.

The interventions proposed are drawn from WBG projects and from some non-WBG initiatives. Where possible, the matrix categorizes interventions according to their track record for results, that is, the extent to which evidence demonstrates an intervention’s impact (World Bank Group 2019b). It should be noted, however, that most of the categorized interventions were delivered without digital enablers. For the most recent and current impact evaluations and research please visit the WBG Regional Gender Innovation Labs.

Intervention Design Matrix

CLICK HERE to access the full Matrix, including features to create your own customized report by constraint, region, and level of evidence

Overview of Barriers and Potential Interventions by Constraint

The legal and regulatory framework matrix category covers broad issues related to the laws, regulations, and policies passed by governments, including stakeholder participation and input into the decision-making process; the impact, or lack thereof, of these government efforts on citizens; and mechanisms for citizens to provide feedback.


Barriers include discriminatory laws or low levels of trust in public-facing bureaucrats; poor government outreach and information dissemination; difficulties businesses face providing input on how regulations impact them; and women’s lack of knowledge and information about and participation in government.

Potential interventions

Potential interventions include reforming laws and regulations; introducing and implementing laws that are gender neutral; disseminating gender-sensitive awareness campaigns for newly passed legislation; soliciting feedback from citizens on how laws affect specific segments of the population; and improving firm and industry policies and practices to attract and retain more female workers. Project teams can deploy these tools in their own legal/regulatory interventions, and/or build on this information in designing new types of interventions that include more sophisticated use of technology; examples include virtual consultations between governments and WSMEs in drafting legislation; gender-focused ePPD (electronic public-private dialogue) consultations; and other online processes that inform the development of new regulations or laws.

Monitoring Progress

This section presents a menu of gender-related output, outcome, and impact indicators to measure project results by choosing gender indicator/s that align(s) with the gaps that the project is trying to address; track(s) expected results; and is/are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). When selecting indicators, work with your M&E team, as well as with a gender specialist to confirm and validate indicator choice; also consider sex-disaggregating indicators across the project, i.e., for those activities that may not specifically address gender gaps but that are amenable to sex-disaggregated data collection. Focus on indicators that make sense for your project and for which you will be able to collect data. The indicators can be applied to both lending and advisory World Bank projects.


Legal & Regulatory

Barriers, Interventions, and Indicators

 Legal and Regulatory Framework
Barriers, Themes and Constraints: A Primer