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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

Wall Street vs Main Street: The Stock Market is Not the Economy

To give context to the Wall Street vs Main Street debate, we compare S&P 500 returns and U.S. GDP growth since 1980.

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Wall Street vs Main Street

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Wall Street vs Main Street

In 2020, the stock market and the economy had a very public break up. The Wall Street vs Main Street divide—the gap between America’s financial markets and the economy—was growing. By the end of the year, the S&P 500 Index closed at a record high. In contrast, 20 million Americans remained unemployed, up from 2 million at the start of the year.

Was 2020 an outlier, or does the performance of the stock market typically diverge from the economy? In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we show U.S. economic growth and stock market performance over the last four decades, to see how closely the two relate.

GDP Growth and S&P 500 Returns

Here’s how annual GDP growth and S&P 500 Index returns stack up from 1980 to the second quarter of 2021. Both metrics are net of inflation.

YearReal GDP GrowthReal S&P 500 Returns
1980-0.3%13.9%
19812.5%-18.3%
1982-1.8%10.8%
19834.6%13.4%
19847.2%-2.5%
19854.2%23.0%
19863.5%12.9%
19873.5%-2.2%
19884.2%7.9%
19893.7%22.4%
19901.9%-12.4%
1991-0.1%23.4%
19923.5%1.4%
19932.8%4.4%
19944.0%-4.2%
19952.7%31.4%
19963.8%17.2%
19974.4%29.3%
19984.5%25.1%
19994.8%16.6%
20004.1%-13.5%
20011.0%-14.6%
20021.7%-26.0%
20032.9%24.5%
20043.8%5.8%
20053.5%-0.7%
20062.9%11.4%
20071.9%-0.6%
2008-0.1%-39.2%
2009-2.5%21.6%
20102.6%11.1%
20111.6%-3.1%
20122.2%11.6%
20131.8%28.3%
20142.5%10.9%
20153.1%-1.4%
20161.7%7.3%
20172.3%17.2%
20183.0%-8.1%
20192.2%26.8%
2020-3.5%14.9%
Q1 20211.5%4.5%
Q2 20211.6%5.8%

Note: For Q1 and Q2 2021, real GDP growth and inflation rates are quarterly rates and are seasonally adjusted.

More often than not, GDP growth and S&P 500 Index returns have both been positive. The late ‘90s saw particularly strong economic activity and stock performance. According to the White House, economic growth was bolstered by cutting the deficit, modernizing job training, and increasing exports. Meanwhile, increasing investor confidence and the growing tech bubble led to annual stock market returns that exceeded 20%.

In the selected timeframe, only 2008 saw a decline in both the stock market and the economy. This was, of course, caused by the Global Financial Crisis. Banks lent out subprime mortgages, or mortgages to people with impaired credit ratings. These mortgages were then pooled together and repackaged into investments such as mortgage-backed securities (MBS). When interest rates rose and home prices collapsed, this led to mortgage defaults and financial institution bankruptcies as many MBS investments became worthless.

Moving in Opposite Directions

What about when the Wall Street vs Main Street divide grows?

Historically, it has been more common to see positive GDP growth and negative stock performance. For example, real GDP grew by a whopping 7% in 1984 due to “Reaganomics”, such as tax cuts and anti-inflation monetary policy. However, the stock market declined as rising treasury yields of up to 14% made fixed income investments more attractive than equities.

On the other hand, in five of the six years with negative GDP growth, there have been positive stock returns. The most recent example of this is 2020. Real GDP declined by 3.5%, while the S&P 500 returned almost 15% net of inflation.

The Stock Market is not the Economy

There are a number of reasons why the stock market may not necessarily reflect what is happening in the economy.

  • The stock market reflects long-term views. A stock’s price factors in what investors think a company will earn in the future. If investors are confident in the likelihood of an economic recovery, stock prices will likely rise. In contrast, GDP growth is a hard measure of current activity.
  • Sector weightings in the stock market do not reflect their contributions to GDP. The stock market remained resilient in 2020 largely because technology, media, and telecom (TMT) stocks performed well. Despite making up 35% of the market cap of the largest 1,000 U.S. stocks, these companies only account for 8% of U.S. GDP. In contrast, hard-hit companies such as restaurants and gyms generate lots of jobs and contribute materially to GDP. However, many of these businesses accounted for a small portion of the stock market or are not even publicly listed.
  • Fiscal policy lags behind monetary policy. The U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) can act quickly. For instance, the Fed bought $1.7 trillion of Treasury securities between mid-March and June 2020 to stabilize financial markets. On the other hand, fiscal support requires legislative approvals. The U.S. government initially provided large-scale economic stimulus through the CARES Act in March 2020, but further relief packages were stalled due to political disagreements.

While many factors are at play, the above can help explain the Wall Street vs Main Street divide.

Wall Street vs Main Street: Together and Apart

Over the last 41 years, the economy and the stock market have moved in opposite directions almost as often as they have moved in the same direction. Here’s a summary of their movements from 1980-2020.

 # of Years
Stock Growth, GDP Growth22
Stock Decline, GDP Growth13
Stock Growth, GDP Decline5
Stock Decline, GDP Decline1

Since 1980, these time periods of differing performance have never lasted more than three consecutive years. In fact, one economist described the stock market and the unemployment rate as two people walking down the street, tethered by a rope.

”When the rope is slack, they move apart. But they can never get too far away from each other.”
—Roger Farmer, University of Warwick economist

After their public breakup in 2020, the Wall Street vs Main Street divide appears to have healed. In the first two quarters of 2021, both the stock market and the economy saw growth. Perhaps it’s easiest to sum up their relationship in two words: it’s complicated.

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Markets in a Minute

Data Centers: Investing in the Infrastructure of the Future

Infrastructure refers to any asset that provides an essential service. In today’s interconnected world, data centers are exactly that.

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Data Centers

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Data Centers: Investing in the Infrastructure of the Future

Digital transformation is one of the world’s most prominent trends today.

For evidence, consider the growth in internet users worldwide. By 2023, 5.3 billion people (66% of population) will be using the internet, up from 3.9 billion (51% of population) in 2018.

This growth has resulted in an incredible amount of data being produced each day, whether its from streaming music on Spotify or buying goods on Amazon. But how is all this data being processed?

In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we shed light on the importance of data centers, and why they should be considered as core infrastructure.

The Role of the Data Center

A data center is a facility that stores, processes, and disseminates data. There are thousands of them around the world, and collectively, they’re referred to as the “cloud”.

This puts data centers at the center of nearly everything we do online: e-commerce, communications, storage and back-up, and even online gaming. To gain a better sense of what this all looks like, the following table breaks down the storage capacity of the world’s data centers.

Segment2016 Storage Capacity (exabytes)2021 Storage Capacity (exabytes) 
Compute160470
Collaboration170400
Database & analytics150380
Enterprise resource planning180420
Video streaming50180
Social networking60160
Search engine30100
Other consumer apps70190
Total8702,300

Source: Statista (2021)

One exabyte is equal to one billion gigabytes, which means the world currently has 2.3 trillion gigabytes of total storage.

The largest segment is compute instances, which are cloud-based workstations used by data scientists. At the lower end of the scale are segments like video streaming (includes Netflix and Hulu) and social networking (think Facebook or LinkedIn).

Cloud Spending Reaches a Historic Milestone

For businesses that create and use data, moving to the cloud (as opposed to maintaining their own servers) has plenty of advantages like cost savings, flexibility, and security.

This is driving exponential growth in cloud infrastructure spending, which reached a record $130 billion in 2020. At the same time, spending on data center hardware decreased from $96 to $90 billion. These results are partly attributed to COVID-19, which forced many businesses to switch to a work-from-home operating model.

A survey conducted by 451 Research found that 40% of businesses had increased their usage of cloud services during the pandemic. In addition, 85% of those who were impacted indicated that the move would be a permanent one.

Data Centers are Infrastrcture

The scope of an infrastructure investor has historically been limited to companies in construction, energy, and transportation.

But what defines infrastructure?

It’s any physical system that is vital for an economy’s development and prosperity—and in a world where over 5 billion people are expected to be online by 2023, the data center is the perfect embodiment of that.

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