World Bank ranks Saudi Arabia as top reformer on women's rights at work

Kingdom has implemented significant change to advance women's economic participation during the last two years

Saudi women walk past a jeweller arriving to open his shop in the Tiba gold market in the capital Riyadh on February 27, 2018. - The Riyadh gold souk is short of salesmen after a government edict to replace foreign workers with Saudis as part of contentious efforts to tackle high unemployment, with many of them who have been long accustomed to a generous cradle-to-grave welfare system regard such jobs as degrading. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP)
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Saudi Arabia has made great reforms for women’s legal rights at work, the World Bank said on Tuesday, as it looks to enhance its measures to increase female participation in the workforce.

The Kingdom is leading the way globally as it introduces new regulations, such as longer paid maternity leave and protection from violence.

It has implemented ground-breaking reforms over the last two years to advance women’s economic participation as part of its 2030 Vision.

“There’s reason for optimism,” World Bank President David Malpass wrote in a foreword to the report, which assessed laws and regulations in 190 countries affecting women at work, including restrictions on jobs and permitted working hours.

“When women can move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets, they’re more likely to join the workforce and strengthen the economy," Mr Malpass said.

Counting 62 reforms in 40 economies between mid-2017 and mid-2019, the report said the average global score for laws affecting women working was 75.2 out of 100, up from 73.9 two years earlier.

Countries with the best regulatory environments for women in the economy and scores of 100 were Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden.

Saudi Arabia has launched various campaigns to empower its female population as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's plan to modernise the country and accelerate economic development.

He has spoken repeatedly of giving women greater rights and protections.

In June 2017, the Kingdom lifted a ban on women driving, giving them greater mobility and independence.

More than 120,000 Saudi women applied for driving licences in the first month after the ban was lifted, according to the interior ministry.