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沙特女性可以开车了,这说明什么?

Rachel Vogelstein 2017年10月11日

不过此次政策转向与其说是为了抬高女权,倒不如说更多是出于经济考量。

近日沙特国王颁布了一道法令,沙特阿拉伯的女性终于可以合法驾车了。消息一出,举国欢腾。沙特一直是一个女性地位受到压制的国家。这场胜利实在来之不易,为了这一天的到来,沙特女性已经坚持不懈地抗争了20多年。在90年代,就有40名勇敢的女性驾车游行表示抗议。2011和2013年,沙特女性也曾组织过街头抗议活动。

不过此次政策转向与其说是为了抬高女权,倒不如说更多是出于经济考量。随着油价走低,沙特领导人正在寻求出台新经济计划,促进沙特由石油型经济向现代型经济转型。沙特领导人的算盘打得是很精明的,更多女性参与就业,必将有助于促进沙特的经济转型。

这次改革几乎是一场有赢无输的赌注。在沙特,半数以上的大学毕业生都是女性,但女性在职场中所占的比例只有20%。也就说,沙特有近一半的劳动力潜力没有得到发掘。

提高女性对经济的参与度,其意义远远不止允许女性驾车这么简单,更重要的是,它预示着沙特的“男权庇护”制度或将走向终结。依据现行法律,沙特妇女的地位基本上与儿童无异,她们不能拥有银行账户,不能从事某些商业活动,不能申领护照,也不能在没有男性亲属允许的情况下出国旅行,而这些都是她们从事商业活动必须拥有的基本权利。

沙特对女性驾车的禁令早已显得与现代世界格格不入。除此之外,这个王国还存着不少法律上的壁垒,阻碍了女性对经济活动的参与,而很多人或许根本没有意识到。比如据世界银行称,对女性在就业中的特殊限制,在全球百余个经济体中均不同程度存在。比如有的工作对女性的婚姻状况有限制,有的国家对女性的财产权有限制,还有的国家不允许女性签订合同。在法国、日本、马达加斯加、阿根廷、巴基斯坦等国,女性是禁止从事一部分传统上由男性从事的工作的,或者是对工作时间有限制,从而降低了女性的生产力和收入。还有些国家,女性会在信用上受到歧视,从而限制了她们创业经商的能力。这些法律壁垒在全球各个地区都存在,甚至包括一些发达经济体。比如俄罗斯就禁止女性从事465项具体工作,如地铁司机、木工等。在法国和日本,带有性别歧视色彩的就业限制甚至堂而皇之地写在法条上。

所以说,尽管全世界都拿沙特女性不能开车来说事儿,但很多人并没有意识到,世界各国还有几千部法律限制着女性对经济活动的参与。现在沙特政府已经意识到,这些法律壁垒只会让国家付出重大的经济代价。国际货币基金组织和经合组织早就确认了女性的经济参与度与经济增长率之间的关系。私人部门也曾就此问题做过详细研究。麦肯锡全球研究院的一份研究表明,如果能够弥合经济中女性与男性的差距——包括消除阻碍女性工作的法律壁垒,那么到2025年,全球GDP将额外增加12万亿美元。

说到这里,有人可能会乐观地说,从沙特此次修法来看,在经济现实压力的推动下,针对女性的法律改革必然是无法避免的。不过从经济产出的角度看,目前的改革速度还是太慢了。毕竟沙特的女性持续抗争了30年,沙特才取消了对女性驾车的禁令,其他不少国家的歧视性法律有的还要远远长于30年。除此之外,也有一些国家虽然没有纸面上的性别歧视,其文化传统却可能严重制约了女性参与经济活动或从事特定职业的能力。总之,虽然要推动法律层面的性别平权仍然是一项艰巨的任务,不过研究已经表明,女性的法律地位的提升,的确与经济发展有显著相关。

目前,全球经济仍在回暖的路上举步维艰,全球各地市场与资本尚未完全恢复元气,无论是沙特还是在其他国家,都承担不起半数人口不参与经济活动的代价。所有国家都应意识到沙特此次改革的影响——女性更多地参与经济活动必将刺激经济增长。各国早就应该运用法律手段,让她们成为经济增长的掌舵人了。(财富中文网)

本文作者Rachel Vogelstein是外交关系协会的高级研究员。

译者:贾政景

 

Women in Saudi Arabia are rightfully celebrating the issuance of a royal decree lifting the female driving ban that has long symbolized their oppression in the kingdom. This hard-won breakthrough followed more than two decades of activism in the country, from the driving demonstration led by 40 courageous women in the 1990s, to more recent protests in the streets in 2011 and 2013.

This policy shift is animated less by a growing commitment to women’s rights and more by rank economic considerations: As oil prices go down, Saudi leaders have sought to implement a new economic program to shift from an oil-based economy into a modern one, and officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia have calculated that growing women’s participation in the labor force will fuel such a transformation.

This is an economic bet that is sure to pay off: In a country where women earn more than half of college and graduate degrees, but only comprise 20% of the workforce, Saudi Arabia has left the economic potential of nearly half of its population on the table.

Yet to improve women’s economic participation in Saudi Arabia, perhaps even more significant than the right to drive is ending the system of male guardianship that remains on the books. Under this legal regime, women are functionally equivalent to minors, unable to open a bank account, start certain businesses, apply for a passport, or travel abroad without the permission of a male relative—all rights that are fundamental to conducting business.

And while Saudi Arabia’s former ban on women drivers long rendered it a global outlier, other legal barriers to women’s economic participation in the kingdom are far more widespread than most recognize. According to the World Bank, women face gender-based job restrictions in 100 economies around the world, from spousal consent requirements for employment, to restrictions on property ownership, to the inability to sign a contract. In some countries (including France, Japan, Madagascar, Argentina, and Pakistan, among others), women are prohibited from performing traditionally “male” jobs or limited to certain hours, reducing their productivity and earnings; in others, women face discrimination in obtaining access to credit, thereby limiting their ability to start and grow businesses. These legal barriers exist in every region of the world, including in developed economies: Russia, for example, forbids women from employment in 456 specific occupations, from driving a subway to woodworking, and gender-based job restrictions remain in legal codes from France to Japan.

Thus, while Saudi Arabia’s driving ban has long captured the world’s attention as a marker of women’s subjugation, thousands of other laws limiting women’s ability to participate in the economy remain in place in nations around the world. As the Saudi government is beginning to recognize, these legal barriers impose a significant economic cost: Analyses from the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have long established a link between women’s labor force participation and economic growth. The private sector has documented this connection as well: One study from the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that closing gender gaps between women and men in the economy—including by eliminating legal barriers to women’s work—could add an estimated $12 trillion in global gross domestic product by 2025.

Some may argue that legal reform for women is inevitable, pointing to liberalization of laws in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere as signs of progress driven by economic realities that are impossible to ignore. But in light of the economic payoff at stake, the pace of change remains far too slow: After all, it took almost three decades of activism before the kingdom’s driving ban was removed, and legal restrictions in other countries have been on the books far longer than that. Others may caution that legal reform will go unheeded in countries where strong cultural norms undermine women’s ability to work in certain professions, or at all. However, even where implementation of gender equality laws remains an ongoing challenge, research shows a substantial link between stronger legal rights for women and economic development.

At a time when the global economy is struggling to emerge from an economic downturn that has roiled markets and capitals around the world, we can no longer afford to limit the economic potential of half the population—in Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else. All nations should recognize what the Saudis finally have: Women drive economic growth—and it is long past time for every nation to level the legal playing field and put them behind the wheel.

Rachel Vogelstein is the Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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