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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

Infrastructure Megatrends: The Clean Energy Transition

Governments are keen to make the transition to clean energy, but what will it take to get there? In this chart, we examine two scenarios through 2050.

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Infrastructure Megatrends: The Clean Energy Transition

Demand for clean energy is ramping up as a majority of countries target 2050 as the year to achieve net-zero emissions. But how much will this all cost?

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), upwards of $100 trillion is needed to build a system capable of keeping global temperatures from rising above 2C° (3.6F°).

In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we take a closer look at the outcomes of such a massive endeavor.

Investment Required to Reshape Global Energy Markets

The IRENA believes there are two scenarios for how the clean energy transition plays out by 2050.

Their first scenario involves a total investment of $95 trillion (112% of global GDP in 2020) and is based on current policies and targets. Despite the lofty amount, this scenario is expected to fall short in achieving the goals set by the Paris Agreement.

Their second scenario involves a more ambitious set of targets, as well as a 16% larger investment of $110 trillion. Thanks to economies of scale, this scenario will reduce carbon emissions much further and keep the global temperature rise below 2C° (3.6F°).

The estimates behind these two scenarios are outlined in the table below.

 Current SituationScenario 1 ($95T in investment)Scenario 2 ($110T in investment)
Renewable Share in Electricity Generation26%55%86%
Electrification Share of Final Energy20%30%49%
Energy-Related CO2 Emissions (gigatonnes)34gt 33gt
9.5gt

How Do We Get There?

For scenario 2 to become reality, significant changes would need to be made across the entire economy.

For starters, the IRENA estimates that 1.1 billion electric vehicles will be on the road by 2050, up from 8 million in 2019. The resulting need for charging infrastructure is reflected by Scenario 2’s higher share of electrification (49% vs 30%).

Government subsidies around the world would also need to be adjusted, with much less money flowing to fossil fuels. The chart below provides a roadmap for these adjustments—on the left is the dollar value of subsidies, and on the right is each segment’s share of the total.

Government energy subsidies

Fossil fuel subsidies in the U.S. are facilitated through tax cuts, and are estimated to be worth around $20 billion per year. This may change very soon, as the Biden administration has signaled its intention to eliminate these subsidies as part of its 2021 tax plan.

With Great Change Comes Great Opportunity

The demand for clean energy is expected to kick-off a monumental transformation of the world’s infrastructure.

For investors, gaining exposure to this megatrend may combine attractive return potential with positive environmental impact. In fact, many listed companies in the utilities sector are establishing themselves as leaders in this regard.

Consider Enel, an Italian multinational with activities in Europe and the U.S. The firm has directed capital towards renewable energy since 2015 and is now the world’s largest player in renewables with 46GW of installed capacity across solar, wind, and hydro.

Further developments are planned, and Enel expects to grow its earnings (represented by EBITDA) at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5%-6% over the next decade.

To learn more about the opportunities surrounding clean energy, consider this infographic on the global sustainable recovery.

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Can Foreign Currencies Act as an Inflation Hedge?

To determine if foreign currencies were a good inflation hedge, we looked at their performance relative to U.S. inflation over the last four decades.

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Inflation Hedge

This infographic is available as a poster.

Can Foreign Currencies Act as an Inflation Hedge?

Inflation is like corrosion. Initially, it can make investment returns less attractive. Over time, it can significantly eat away at an investment’s value. For U.S. investors looking for an inflation hedge, holding foreign currencies may be one option.

But just how effective are they at managing inflation risk? In this Markets in a Minute chart from New York Life Investments, we look at how the performance of foreign currencies compared to U.S. inflation rates over the last four decades.

How to Hedge Against Inflation

Inflation reduces the value of a dollar over time. To manage this risk, investors look for returns that are higher than the inflation rate. For example, a currency that appreciates 6% during 2% inflation may be considered a relatively good inflation hedge.

What makes a currency appreciate? A currency will perform well against the U.S. dollar if investors consider the issuing economy to be strong. This is because foreign investors will look to purchase investments in the applicable currency, driving up its demand.

Foreign Currency Appreciation vs. U.S. Inflation

Here is how the four largest non-U.S. reserve currencies have performed from 1981-2020. We measured a foreign currency’s appreciation against the U.S. dollar using annual exchange rates. U.S. inflation was measured by the percentage change in the average consumer price index for all urban consumers. Neither metric was seasonally adjusted.

YearAverage U.S. InflationEuropean euroChinese yuanJapanese yenBritish pound
20201.2%1.9%0.1%2.1%0.5%
20191.8%-5.6%-4.5%1.3%-4.7%
20182.4%4.4%2.2%1.5%3.5%
20172.1%2.0%-1.8%-3.2%-5.2%
20161.3%-0.2%-5.7%10.2%-12.8%
20150.1%-19.8%-2.0%-14.5%-7.9%
20141.6%0.1%-0.2%-8.3%5.1%
20131.5%3.2%2.6%-22.3%-1.4%
20122.1%-8.3%2.4%-0.2%-1.2%
20113.1%4.8%4.5%9.2%3.7%
20101.6%-5.1%0.9%6.3%-1.4%
2009-0.3%-5.7%1.7%9.4%-18.4%
20083.8%6.9%8.7%12.2%-8.0%
20072.9%8.4%4.6%-1.3%7.9%
20063.2%0.9%2.7%-5.6%1.3%
20053.4%0.1%1.0%-1.8%-0.7%
20042.7%9.0%0.0%6.7%10.8%
20032.3%16.5%0.0%7.4%8.1%
20021.6%5.3%0.0%-3.0%4.2%
20012.8%-3.1%0.0%-12.8%-5.3%
20003.4%-15.4%0.0%5.2%-6.7%
19992.2%N/A0.3%13.2%-2.5%
19981.5%N/A0.2%-8.2%1.2%
19972.3%N/A0.2%-11.3%4.7%
19962.9%N/A0.4%-15.8%-1.1%
19952.8%N/A3.1%8.0%3.0%
19942.6%N/A-49.5%8.0%2.0%
19933.0%N/A-4.7%12.4%-17.6%
19923.0%N/A-3.5%5.8%-0.1%
19914.2%N/A-11.3%7.2%-0.9%
19905.4%N/A-27.2%-5.0%8.2%
19894.8%N/A-1.0%-7.7%-8.7%
19884.1%N/A0.0%11.4%7.9%
19873.6%N/A-7.8%14.1%10.5%
19861.9%N/A-17.6%29.4%11.6%
19853.5%N/A-26.3%-0.4%-3.0%
19844.4%N/A-17.6%0.0%-13.4%
19833.2%N/A-4.4%4.6%-15.3%
19826.2%N/A-11.0%-12.9%-15.8%
198110.4%N/A--2.7%-14.8%

Note: The euro was created in 1999, which is why annual appreciation data against the U.S. dollar is not applicable prior to 2000. The Chinese yuan / U.S. dollar foreign exchange rate was not available for 1980, which is why annual appreciation for 1981 is unavailable.

The Best and Worst Inflation Hedges, Historically

Based on available data, here is the percentage of time each currency’s annual appreciation was greater than the U.S. inflation rate.

European euroChinese yuanJapanese yenBritish pound
43%18%48%33%

The Japanese yen acted as the best inflation hedge, with its annual appreciation beating U.S. inflation 48% of the time. Demand for the safe haven currency has historically been strong for three main reasons:

  • After the Japanese banking crisis of the late 1990s, the government introduced a number of policy measures. This helped Japan enter the global financial crisis with a relatively stable banking system.
  • Japan is the largest creditor nation, meaning the value of foreign assets held by Japanese investors is higher than the value of Japanese assets owned by foreign investors. In times of market uncertainty, the money of Japanese investors tends to return home—driving up demand for the yen.
  • To take advantage of near-zero interest rates in Japan, investors conduct “carry trades” where they borrow funds in Japan and lend or invest in countries where returns are higher. During turbulent markets, investors may unwind these trades, furthering demand for the yen.

The Chinese yuan has been the worst inflation hedge, with the yuan’s appreciation beating U.S. inflation only 18% of the time since 1982. This is perhaps not surprising, given that the yuan was pegged against the U.S. dollar in 1994 to keep the yuan low and make China’s exports competitive.

In 2005, China moved to a “managed float” system where the price of the yuan is allowed to fluctuate in a narrow band relative to a basket of foreign currencies. This shift led to the yuan appreciating against the U.S. dollar in some years.

The Risks of Currency as an Inflation Hedge

As the chart makes clear, investing in foreign currencies can be very volatile. Not only can currency depreciation lead to losses, there are additional factors for investors to consider such as geopolitical risks.

Of course, the effectiveness of foreign currencies as an inflation hedge depends on their attractiveness relative to the U.S. dollar. If a country is also affected by the factors causing U.S. inflation—such as an increase in the money supply—its currency could be negatively affected.

Given the uncertainties associated with this strategy, investors may want to consider foreign currencies alongside other asset classes to help manage inflation risk.

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