It’s 2017, but there are still 18 countries where women are not allowed to work without permission from a male relative.
In 90% of countries, women continue to face gender discrimination. Oftentimes, these barriers are literally written into the law. And they are holding back women, countries, and whole economies from reaching their full potential.
A detailed 2016 World Bank report, “Women, Business, and the Law 2016,” exposing gender barriers in business and law revealed that 100 of 173 countries block women from the same economic opportunities available to men. This number doesn’t even include restrictions for nursing or pregnant women.
The most common jobs excluding women, per the report, include: mining, construction, factory work, metal work, and jobs deemed “hazardous,” “arduous,” or “morally inappropriate.”
In 29 countries, women legally can’t work at night, which imposes another set of restrictions for any jobs that include a night shift, or early morning work. The intention is to protect women from violence or health risks. The result, however, keeps women in lower-paying jobs and does little to counter gender-based violence.
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In developing countries, high-risk jobs are often higher paying than low-risk ones. For example, women can’t mine in China, excluding them from a profitable sector.
Whether these jobs are dangerous or not, the fact is they are no more dangerous for a woman than a man. The real danger is in restricting women. In countries with occupation restrictions, women earn 52% of what men earn, compared to 64% in countries without restrictions.
As feminist champion and HeForShe cofounder Emma Watson said, “feminism is about choice.” This too applies to the law. The law must be the start to granting women equal access to occupations, education, and health to advance women’s rights.
Here are seven laws that keep women from certain job opportunities around the world.
In Russia, Women Can’t Be Truckers or Do 455 Other Jobs
In Russia, women are legally restricted from an astounding 456 jobs. This includes essentially every job that poses any health threat or danger — from truck driving to woodworking.
In 2000, the Russian government passed a law with the goal of protecting women’s health that instead restricts women from 38 economic sectors. Captaining ships, driving trucks, trains, and mechanical careers are no longer options for women in Russia.
Russia’s ban on professional female truck drivers recirculated in 2009 when a woman applied to be an assistant truck driver and was told no. She persisted, taking the case to the Russian Supreme Court. Sadly, she was turned down when the court ruled in favor of the discriminatory law.
Last year, the United Nations officially handed over the title of most sexist when it comes to women in the workplace to Russia, calling it “the country with the most job-related barriers.”
In China, Women Are Banned From Mining
Women are not allowed to study mining or obtain a degree for a career in mining at the China’s Mining and Technology University. This is just one of nearly 100 jobs women are barred from in China.
Mining restrictions on women are especially unfortunate because the career is on a list of the country's “green card majors” — jobs that essentially ensure a job upon graduation — according to BBC.
“Some jobs are really inappropriate for women,” said Shu Jisen. "If they force their way into these jobs, they will waste energy that can be better used elsewhere."
So, why exactly is mining inappropriate for women?
The Chinese labor department and the university both agree: women cannot carry as heavy of loads and would not be able to escape as quickly during an accident.
Women Can’t Wheelbarrow More Than 100 lbs in France. Um, What?
In France, yes France, women are not allowed to perform labor activities that involve carrying loads heavier than 55 lbs (25 kilograms). Women also cannot transport cargo weighing more than 99 lbs (45 kilograms) via wheelbarrow.
While transportation has leaped from wheelbarrows to forklifts the past century, this law is clearly still behind the times.
Call the Press! Women Can’t Distribute Posters in Madagascar
According to the World Bank, women in Madagascar cannot legally distribute literature, posters, or other published materials due to moral code.
“Preparing, handling and selling printed literature, posters, drawings, engravings, paintings, emblems, images and other objects whose sale, offer, exposure, display or distribution is punishable under criminal laws,” the World Bank reports.
Any such activity is criminalized and seen as “contrary to morality.”
Women Are Not Allowed to Lubricate Cotton Equipment in Pakistan
In Pakistan men are allowed to perform this strange task, but not women. In that country an archaic law says women can’t fix moving parts of a machine in a cotton-opener factory.
“Working in the same room as a cotton-opener in a factory; working inside any factory to clean, lubricate or adjust any part of machinery while that part is in motion, or working between moving parts or between fixed and moving parts of any machinery,” is not allowed, the law states.
No ‘Icky’ Jobs Allowed for Women in United Arab Emirates
In the UAE, women are barred from performing any work that involves a range of unpleasant materials like animal droppings, blood, and fertilizer. Women cannot work in tanneries (i.e. leather-making factories), pour asphalt, or work with a list of toxic chemicals like lead. They also may not clean or manage facilities that include this type of work. Women are also not allowed to work in bars, for moral reasons.
Women Definitely Can’t Be Cab Drivers in Saudi Arabia
Women are banned from driving in Saudi Arabia. This is just one of 26 gender-based restrictions women face in the country’s economy. They also may not travel, obtain a passport, open a bank, or register a business without permission from a male relative.
Needless to say, this means women cannot hold jobs as taxi drivers, or work in countless other sectors.
Last year, Uber partnered with Saudi Arabia, opening a new market in which women are excluded.