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The State of Women’s Economic Rights Worldwide

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Womens Economic Rights

Women's Economic Rights

This Markets in a Minute Chart is available as a poster.

The State of Women’s Economic Rights Worldwide

While significant progress has been made over time, women still face entrepreneurship and employment barriers. In fact, on average around the globe, women have just three-quarters of the legal economic rights granted to men.

Equal opportunities are important not only from a human rights perspective, but also from an economic perspective. When women are able to work outside the home and manage money, they are more likely to join the workforce and contribute to economic growth.

In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we show the state of women’s legal economic rights around the world.

Economic Opportunity by Country

The World Bank analyzed eight metrics that affect women’s economic empowerment at various life stages: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension. For example, in places where women are able to move around freely, they are more likely to join the workforce.

To ensure comparability, women are assumed to work in the main business city of their country and in the formal sector. The formal sector refers to work with companies that contribute taxes and/or are registered with the government. It’s also worth noting that the data is based on legal rights, and religious or customary laws are not considered unless codified.

A score of 100 means that women have the same legal economic rights as men for the eight metrics measured. Here’s how each of the 190 economies stack up, sorted by score.

EconomyScore
Belgium100.0
Canada100.0
Denmark100.0
France100.0
Iceland100.0
Latvia100.0
Luxembourg100.0
Sweden100.0
Estonia97.5
Finland97.5
Germany97.5
Greece97.5
Ireland97.5
Italy97.5
Netherlands97.5
Portugal97.5
Spain97.5
United Kingdom97.5
Australia96.9
Hungary96.9
Norway96.9
Peru95.0
Austria94.4
New Zealand94.4
Paraguay94.4
Slovak Republic94.4
Croatia93.8
Czech Republic93.8
Lithuania93.8
Poland93.8
Serbia93.8
Slovenia93.8
Kosovo91.9
Mauritius91.9
Albania91.3
Cyprus91.3
Taiwan, China91.3
United States91.3
Bulgaria90.6
Romania90.6
Ecuador89.4
Hong Kong SAR, China89.4
El Salvador88.8
Malta88.8
Uruguay88.8
Lao PDR88.1
South Africa88.1
Guyana86.9
Zimbabwe86.9
Cabo Verde86.3
Dominican Republic86.3
Namibia86.3
Nicaragua86.3
São Tomé and Príncipe86.3
Georgia85.6
Switzerland85.6
Bosnia and Herzegovina85.0
Korea, Rep.85.0
North Macedonia85.0
Venezuela, RB85.0
Moldova84.4
Tanzania84.4
Togo84.4
Liberia83.8
Mexico83.8
St. Lucia83.8
Côte d’Ivoire83.1
Timor-Leste83.1
Armenia82.5
Bolivia82.5
Mongolia82.5
Singapore82.5
Turkey82.5
Brazil81.9
Colombia81.9
Japan81.9
Montenegro81.9
Bahamas, The81.3
Philippines81.3
Puerto Rico81.3
Zambia81.3
Grenada80.6
Kenya80.6
Malawi80.6
Costa Rica80.0
Samoa80.0
San Marino80.0
Belize79.4
Burkina Faso79.4
Fiji79.4
Panama79.4
Azerbaijan78.8
Congo, Dem. Rep.78.8
Kiribati78.8
Tajikistan78.8
Ukraine78.8
Vietnam78.8
Rwanda78.1
Thailand78.1
Chile77.5
Israel77.5
Barbados76.9
Kyrgyz Republic76.9
Mozambique76.9
Argentina76.3
Seychelles76.3
Belarus75.6
China75.6
Lesotho75.6
Morocco75.6
Cambodia75.0
Ghana75.0
Honduras75.0
Trinidad and Tobago75.0
Benin74.4
Gambia, The74.4
India74.4
Maldives73.8
Nepal73.8
Angola73.1
Burundi73.1
Russian Federation73.1
Uganda73.1
Kazakhstan72.5
Bhutan71.9
Ethiopia71.9
Madagascar71.9
Central African Republic71.3
St. Kitts and Nevis71.3
Guatemala70.6
Saudi Arabia70.6
South Sudan70.0
Tunisia70.0
Eritrea69.4
Djibouti68.1
Jamaica68.1
Sri Lanka68.1
St. Vincent and the Grenadines68.1
Uzbekistan67.5
Antigua and Barbuda66.3
Chad66.3
Suriname66.3
Guinea65.0
Indonesia64.4
Botswana63.8
Senegal63.8
Nigeria63.1
Sierra Leone63.1
Dominica62.5
Haiti61.3
Micronesia, Fed. Sts.61.3
Mali60.6
Papua New Guinea60.0
Niger59.4
Comoros58.8
Marshall Islands58.8
Myanmar58.8
Palau58.8
Tonga58.8
Vanuatu58.1
Algeria57.5
Gabon57.5
Cameroon56.9
Solomon Islands56.9
United Arab Emirates56.3
Brunei Darussalam53.1
Lebanon52.5
Equatorial Guinea51.9
Libya50.0
Malaysia50.0
Bangladesh49.4
Pakistan49.4
Somalia46.9
Bahrain46.3
Congo, Rep.46.3
Eswatini46.3
Mauritania45.6
Egypt, Arab Rep.45.0
Iraq45.0
Guinea-Bissau42.5
Jordan40.6
Oman38.8
Afghanistan38.1
Syrian Arab Republic36.9
Kuwait32.5
Qatar32.5
Iran, Islamic Rep.31.3
Sudan29.4
Yemen, Rep.26.9
West Bank and Gaza26.3

Data as of September 1, 2019.

Following the introduction of paid paternity leave, Canada joined seven other countries that have a perfect score of 100. Paid leave for fathers contributes positively to women’s economic opportunity as it allows childcare responsibilities to be distributed more evenly.

At the other end of the spectrum, economies in the Middle East and North Africa had the lowest scores, with women having only half of the economic rights granted to men. However, these regions have also seen their scores improving the most.

For example, Saudi Arabia was the top-improving economy, more than doubling its score from 31.8 in 2017 to 70.6 in 2019. The country exacted reforms that had an impact on six out of the eight metrics. The amendments included allowing women to travel abroad without the approval of a male guardian, and changes that prohibit employment discrimination.

A Force for Good, and Economic Growth

All regions have improved their scores, but most countries still need further legal reform to put women on an equal economic footing with men. Doing so will have important socioeconomic implications. For instance, greater equality of economic opportunity is correlated with a reduction in the wage gap, increasing women’s earning power.

It also has positive economic outcomes. One study published in the Harvard Business Review found that when more women joined the workforce, they helped make cities more productive and increased real wages for both women and men.

As investors pursue geographic areas with economic growth potential, they may want to consider countries that are making the biggest strides for women’s economic rights.

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Markets in a Minute

Should a U.S. Election Affect Your Asset Mix?

Election jitters prompt investors to put their money in low-risk assets. We analyze why this may not be the best idea for your portfolio’s asset mix.

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Should an Election Affect Your Asset Mix?

U.S. elections are a powerful force in investor psychology.

In fact, historically, investors pour more money into low-risk assets than equity investments surrounding election season. Following election years, investors reverse course and put their money back into equities.

This Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments shows how investors have reacted to U.S. presidential elections over time, and why maintaining your long-term asset mix may be a better course of action.

Market Behavior During U.S. Elections

While investors allocated funds into safe assets in election years, what happened to the market?

 Average S&P 500 Returns in Presidential Election Years (1928-2016)
New president is elected9.3%
Incumbent president win13.4%
All election years11.3%

Source: Morningstar (Dec, 2019)

On average, the market has returned 11.3% in election years over the last century.

Markets also appear to prefer familiarity—when the incumbent president won, the S&P 500 averaged higher returns. Alongside this, it made no difference if a Democrat or Republican candidate won.

Implications for the 2020 Election

Still, with mail-in voting controversy and the anticipation of a results dispute, the 2020 presidential run has stoked greater volatility in financial markets. What reference point can we make to previously contested results?

Following the 2000 results between Al Gore and George Bush, investor fear ran rampant. Markets fell 1.6% when no winner was clearly determined. Compare this to the 2016 presidential run, when markets jumped 1% the day after the election.

But while short-term impacts of U.S. elections cause heightened uncertainty, it’s important to analyze if it’s an emotional or rational decision being made in response to market unrest.

Opportunity Costs

While investors typically run to safe-haven assets during these cycles, the table below illustrates how this may be less optimal for their portfolios.

 U.S. Treasury Bill (T-Bill) Rates
8 Week T-bill0.09%
26 Week T-bill0.11%
52 Week T-bill0.13%

Source: U.S. Treasury (Dec, 2020)

Instead of paying attention to unknown variables inherent in every market, investors can focus on what the numbers are saying.

Building a Resilient Portfolio

So how can investors stay the course during election season?

Broad historical trends show that in spite of unique events, money in the stock market positively increases over time. Staying invested in your long-term asset mix can help capture these overarching trends.

One-off events such as an election provide an opportunity to take advantage of temporarily lower prices. This, coupled with the higher volatility levels that accompany election cycles, offer an avenue for your portfolio to be more resilient as it helps strengthen portfolio returns.

The diminishing returns of cash compound this effect. Over the last decade, cash returned close to 0%. These return rates could fall even lower in the years ahead as interest rates decline.

In short, it’s impossible to predict the future. Instead, equities and other fixed income investments have offered a number of advantages. Macroeconomic factors, such as falling interest rates and the supply of capital, have only highlighted this trend.

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Markets in a Minute

U.S. Elections: Charting Patterns in Market Volatility

How have U.S. elections historically impacted market volatility? With elections nearing, we look at over 90 years of market data.

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This Markets in a Minute Chart is available as a poster.

U.S. Elections: Charting Patterns in Market Volatility

Do elections influence market volatility?

Over 90 years of data shows that volatility jumps 30% in the five months leading up to an election. But while elections have historically stoked uncertainty in the market, in reality, the scale of their impact plays a relatively minor role.

This Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments shows volatility trends surrounding elections over the last century, and how investors can best position themselves amid market turbulence.

Making Sense of Market Volatility

Volatility is when a security has sharp price movements in either direction. The market’s volatility is measured by the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), also known as the ‘fear gauge’ for the market. The higher the VIX reading, the higher the volatility.

The five-year average VIX value is 15.8, with an an all-time low of 9.1 in November 2017, and reaching an all-time high of 82.7 in March 2020. Specifically, in the five months ahead of U.S. elections, the VIX tends to fall between 14 and 18.

MonthAverage Monthly VIX During U.S. Election Years Since 1928
July14.2
August15.0
September16.0
October17.4
November18.0
December14.7

Source: Eureka Report

After the dust settles from elections, market volatility reduces as investors gain more clarity on government direction.

In short, in the six months following an election, volatility tends to fall on a downward sloping trajectory.

Finding Opportunity Surrounding U.S. Elections

With volatility here to stay, investors can utilize a number of portfolio strategies prior to elections.

  1. Stay the course: The easiest thing investors can do is nothing. Ignoring irrational market activity and staying invested will help you keep your investment goals on track.
  2. Focus on value: Investors can focus on companies with sound balance sheets that return value back to shareholders, such as fixed-income investments or dividend-paying stocks. For instance, when concerns circled around increased taxes on investment income in 2012, no less than 1,100 companies issued a special dividend following the election.
  3. Bargain hunt: Overvalued stocks, or sectors in the policy spotlight, can temporarily dip amid market fear. For example, in 2016 the health care sector saw new policies that investors feared would have damaging effects. Ultimately, these concerns were overdone, and the sector rallied after the election.

Focusing on solid company fundamentals can offer windows of opportunity to investors who look past the short-term volatility.

Long-Term Areas to Focus On

Investors can look to structural factors, such as the economic environment, that have a more powerful impact on financial markets.

Interest rates, low bond yields and policy measures, among others, have a greater influence on market performance. Rather than paying attention to short-term volatility, investors can also focus on policy changes that have a lasting impact on the economy:

  1. Employment: Economic policies that help to promote workforce outcomes will have positive impacts on earnings growth, market performance, and investor portfolios.
  2. Taxes: Tax policies reallocate capital. Corporate tax cuts, for instance, can buoy markets and investor optimism.
  3. COVID-19 containment: The policies in place in response to COVID-19, such as the CARES Act, will have a marked impact on investor sentiment, company earnings, and ultimately economic resilience.

Looking past the election, and keeping an eye on policy shifts, could provide more insight into key forces shaping the future of the economy.

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