The Economist Intelligence Unit recently launched the 2012 Women’s Economic Opportunity Index (WEO).
The WEO is a new index that measures the policy and other inputs behind women’s economic participation, both as employees and business owners, in 128 countries. It uses information from other indexes, such as the World Bank’s “Women, Business, and the Law,” but it differs from other work in terms of its breadth.
The WEO measures more than just laws and regulations – it attempts to quantify and analyze difficult-to-quantify, yet important things like access to childcare. (Indeed, that is one of their indicators in the category of “Labor Practice.”)
This new index is useful because it can be an advocacy tool for groups looking to pressure policymakers on certain policy points. Because the WEO looks at input variables, rather than output variables, it helps provide background information for better suggestions about where and how countries should improve. Most other indexes are limited to demonstrating the extent of gender inequality. The WEO goes beyond that to try to explain why inequality exists.
The WEO report online weighs the variables in each category equally. However, a desktop tool is scheduled to come out that will allow users to weigh their own variables depending on what is most important to women’s economic opportunities in particular country contexts. That desktop tool will also provide a platform for comparing multiple countries side by side.
To learn more, I recommend you check out the Index. It is available online at http://www.eiu.com/public/topical_report.aspx?campaignid=weoindex2012.
Like other indexes, the WEO is a tool, not an end in itself. Its usefulness depends on how it is used. Will you use it in your country?