From: Alice Taylor
Comment: Why is the World Bank Equality-Washing Albanian Women?

A recent report by the World Bank has given Albania almost full marks for the way in which policymakers addressed issues relating to women, business, and the law, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Women, Business, and the Law 2021 report aims to identify the laws and regulations that restrict, and support the economic opportunity of women across 190 jurisdictions. It includes factors like parenting, retiring, and working and provides measurable benchmarks for global progress towards gender equality. 

There’s no doubt that the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have exposed and deepened global sex inequality. For many women, this means not just economic insecurity, but also threats against their health, safety, and general wellbeing. As a response, it’s necessary to create a legal environment that encourages women’s economic inclusion and makes them less vulnerable in the face of a crisis.

Still, many laws continue to inhibit women’s ability to enter the workforce or start a business. On average, women have just three-quarters of the rights of men. 

Albania scored maximum points in mobility, workplace equality, equal pay, marriage, and entrepreneurship. A score of 50 was recorded in terms of pensions and 80 in parenthood.

Globally, Albania ranked at number 34 out of 190, beating the United States, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore, and Bulgaria. Top of the list was Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, and Iceland.

This paints a picture of a very supportive legal environment for women. But this doesn’t reconcile with the lived experience of women in Albania during the last year or statistics.

Overall the report noted that women struggled with childcare responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The main issue was widespread gender inequality in the home. As schools and kindergartens closed, women bore the brunt of childcare responsibilities and often ad to choose between work or their children. Even when both parents were able to work from home, men were still not performing their share of the childcare and unpaid work as women.

On average across all countries, women were doing 4.5 hours of unpaid work a day, whereas men were doing around half.

Previous data from Albania from a range of sources put this figure as much higher prior to the pandemic. Data suggests that Albanian women spend almost a quarter of their day doing unpaid work such as cooking, cleaning, and caring. Men on the other hand do just 3.47%.

This equates to Albanian women working 40 hours a month, almost a full working week, for free.

These findings were reinforced by data collated by the government. Albania scored just 60 points out of a possible 100 for equality, putting it below the EU average.

The worst gender gap observed was that of ‘time’ where Albania managed to score only 48.1 out of a possible 100, indicating a “very unbalanced responsibilities regarding care for family members and unpaid household work”. 

It also noted that while women carry most of the responsibilities, they do not participate in social activities as much as men despite the fact they are “important for their well-being and quality of life”.

The third biggest gap observed in the government index was in the domain of ‘knowledge’. While Albanian women study more, for longer, they mainly study education, health, and welfare, humanities, and arts. Their male counterparts tend to avoid these subjects, resulting in a number of sectors including law, medicine, economics, and politics, losing out on their share of highly educated women

Despite this, women are still earning less than their male counterparts, despite being more educated and working longer hours.

In terms of employment mobility, while the World Bank ranks the country well, data from the World Economic Forum found that Albanian women are more educated and work harder but this does not translate into leadership positions. Women only hold around 18.1% of C-level or ownership roles in the country. 

There may well be policies in place to help this situation, but if so, they don’t seem to be working.

But let’s take a look at the issue of domestic violence. While not mentioned in the World Bank’s report, this is an issue that affects at least half of all Albanian women, at least once in their lives.

The WEF noted that high-rates of sex-based violence and maternal mortality result in inequality in the healthcare system. More than 12% were unable to access contraception or abortion and 7.2% of women get married when they are children. 

The country has one of the highest instances of domestic violence in Europe yet according to data from the State Police seen by Exit, only 13% of complaints of domestic violence were criminally prosecuted between January and December 2020.

Out of 4701 reported cases of domestic violence during the year, the police prosecuted 615. They also issued 2816 protection orders, equating to 59.9% of the reports.

In 2019, there were 4627 reported cases and 535 criminal prosecutions, equating to an 11.5% prosecution rate. This shows an increase in the prosecution rate in 2020 but it’s still not enough. 

From what I understand from the figures and statistics, there is a problem with gender equality in Albania. Having laws on paper is one thing, but if they do not reach those that need to benefit from them most, they are not worth the paper they are written on. 

I know from the lived experiences of the women around me, those I come into contact with through my work, family, and friends, that there is much work to be done. 

I feel every day the struggle of supporting my family while taking on the lion’s share of unpaid work. I experience the societal expectations and supposed obligations that are placed on me as a mother, and woman in this society. While I cannot compare my experience to that of thousands of women living in poverty and persecution, I can say that studies like the World Bank’s one do little to help us, and them. 

Patting politicians on the back for drafting and implementing laws, while doing little to highlight the significant issues that face women on a day-to-day basis is disingenuous, dishonest, and harmful to those that are fighting for their most basic rights. 

Why not do a report on sex-based abortion, ‘virginity’ surgery, sexual violence, sex-based online harassment, the derogatory and sexist portrayal of women in the media, or the fact that many women cannot go for a coffee without the permission of their husband, let alone in public after dark? I understand that gender policy are important but if they aren’t being implemented what is the point?