These nations, which also include Denmark, Latvia and Luxembourg, were all found to ensure legal and economic equality in eight key areas such as salary, family life and job market access.
Neither the UK nor the United States achieved a top score, with the latter performing so poorly that it did not even make it into the top 50.
The top six nations – Sweden, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Latvia and Denmark – all ensure legal and economic equality in eight key areas such as salary, family life and job market access
The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law report grades countries by how effectively they guarantee legal and economic equality between men and women, with a top score of 100.
Questions posed by the bank include: ‘Can a woman travel outside her home in the same way as a man?,’ ‘Are women able to work in the same industries as men?’, ‘Does the law mandate nondiscrimination in employment based on gender?’ and ‘Is there paid paternity leave?’
The UK was fairly close to a perfect score with 97.5 – placing it in the top 15 around the world – while Germany measured at 91.88, and Australia scored 96.88.
The US however, only scored 83.75, putting it below countries such as Malawi, Ecuador and Zimbabwe.
Firmly in the bottom is Saudi Arabia, with a score of just 25.63, meaning women only enjoy a quarter of the same rights as men.
No perfect score: The United Kingdom scored 97.5 out of 100 in the World Bank’s gender equality report, and only made the top 15 among global economies
‘Gender equality is a critical component of economic growth,’ World Bank Group Interim President Kristalina Georgieva writes in the report.
‘Women are half of the world’s population and we have our role to play in creating a more prosperous world. But we won’t succeed in playing it if the laws are holding us back.
‘Economies that failed to implement reforms towards gender equality over the past ten years, for example, saw a smaller increase in the percentage of women working overall and in the percentage of women working relative to men. ‘
The global average of 74.71 is an increase of more than four and a half points compared to a decade ago, however it still means women have only three quarters of the legal rights of men across the globe.
In the Middle East and North Africa, the average score is 47.37, meaning the typical economy in that region gives women less than half the legal rights of men in the areas studied by the World Bank.
The country which was found to have made the biggest improvement in the past decade was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had a score of 42.50 ten years ago and improved by 27.50 points to a score of 70.
This improvement was based, in part, on reforms allowing married women to register businesses, open bank accounts, and choose where to live in the same way as men. The legal requirement that wives obey their husbands has also been removed in the pas ten years.