Doing Business 2017: Equal opportunity for all

March 2017

How would you feel if a judge cared more about what your opponent said in court, simply because your opponent was a man? What if the law allowed your brother to use your family's land as collateral for a loan, but you were not allowed? What if you couldn't start your own business because your spouse wouldn't sign an approval? These are some regulatory obstacles that women entrepreneurs face in certain economies around the world.

The World Bank Group's Doing Business report measures the ease of doing business for small and medium enterprises; for the first time, Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All has added gender components so the data can more closely represent reality for men and women. The Doing Business project's goal is to promote more efficient and egalitarian regulations.

Doing Business measures regulations under ten topic areas in 190 economies, including Somalia for the first time this year. To develop an overall ease of Doing Business ranking, the ten areas measured are: Starting a Business, Dealing with Construction Permits, Getting Electricity, Registering Property, Getting Credit, Protecting Minority Investors, Paying Taxes, Trading Across Borders, Enforcing Contracts, and Resolving Insolvency. Data is also collected on labour market regulations but this is not part of the overall ease of Doing Business ranking.

Doing Business 2017: Equal Opportunity for All finds a record 137 economies implemented 283 business reforms between June 2015 and June 2016. The bulk of the reforms were carried out in the areas of Starting a Business, Paying Taxes, Getting Credit and Trading Across Borders. Brunei Darussalam, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Belarus, Indonesia, Serbia, Georgia, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain were the top ten improvers last year in areas measured by Doing Business. New Zealand took first place in the overall ease of doing business rankings.

The previous thirteen editions of the Doing Business report assumed the case study entrepreneur was a man. This year, gender components for the Doing Business ranking were added to Starting a Business, Registering Property and Enforcing Contracts because studies show gender disparity in these three areas impacts economic development. The research builds upon data collected by the World Bank Group's Women, Business and the Law report. Hence, Starting a Business now measures if women are required to complete additional start-up procedures. Registering Property now measures legal gender differentiations in property rights for land ownership, use and transfer. And Enforcing Contracts now measures whether women's and men's testimonies have the same evidentiary weight in civil courts. Doing Business research finds that economies with these regulatory limitations on women have fewer women working in the private sector both as employers and employees.

Doing Business 2017 also expands the Paying Taxes indicator to cover post-filing processes - what happens after a firm pays taxes - such as tax refunds, administrative tax appeals and tax audits. Doing Business finds that OECD high-income economies process VAT refunds most efficiently, in an average of 14.4 weeks, with Europe and Central Asia region following closely behind at 16 weeks. The data shows that, on average, businesses spend six hours correcting an income tax error and preparing and submitting additional documents or payments. In 74 economies, an error in the income tax return, even if the taxpayer voluntarily reports the issue, is likely to trigger an audit.

This year's report also presents data on a pilot indicator: Selling to the Government. The public procurement data covers five main areas: accessibility and transparency, bid security, payment delays, incentives for small and medium-size enterprises and complaints mechanisms. The data shows that 97% of the 78 economies analysed have at least one online public procurement portal. In 37% of 78 economies, payment occurs on average within 30 days while in 48% of the economies suppliers can expect to receive payments between 31 and 90 days following completion of the contract.

The Doing Business report has become one of the world's most influential policy publications, providing as it does an annual report card on the state of health of economies, based on detailed diagnostics on regulatory systems, the efficacy of the bureaucracy and the nature of business governance. The report owes its success, in part, to years of collaboration and feedback from a network of 11,000 legal, tax, engineering and trade experts around the world who volunteer their time to answer research questions. Every spring, the Doing Business team distributes questionnaires to experts in 190 economies and their responses are the foundation of the annual report that is published in the fall. Russell Bedford contributes global research expertise to the Doing Business project.

For more information on the Doing Business project, please visit

For copies of the national, regional and global Doing Business reports, visit

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