Reader’s guide

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) is a unique cross-country measure of discriminatory social institutions, which include formal and informal laws, social norms and practices that restrict women’s and girls’ rights, access to empowerment opportunities and resources. The SIGI comprises four components that provide policy makers with facts and evidence in order to enhance governments’ efforts to deliver their gender equality commitments (Box 1).

The SIGI and its dimensions look at the gaps that legislation, attitudes and practices create between women’s and men’s rights and opportunities. The SIGI covers four dimensions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect women’s and girls’ entire lifetimes (Figure 1):

  • The “Discrimination in the family” dimension captures social institutions that limit women’s decision-making power and undervalue their status in the household and the family.

  • The “Restricted physical integrity” dimension captures social institutions that increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to multiple forms of violence and limit their control over their bodies and reproductive autonomy.

  • The “Restricted access to productive and financial resources” dimension captures women’s restricted access to and control over critical productive and economic resources and assets.

  • The “Restricted civil liberties” dimension captures discriminatory laws and practices restricting women’s access to, and participation and voice in, the public and social spheres.

Each dimension builds on four indicators combining qualitative and quantitative information. In theory, each indicator builds on a combination of three variables:

  • law variables, which are discrete variables, and aim to measure the level of discrimination in formal and informal laws

  • attitudes and practices variables, which are continuous variables, and aim to measure the level of discrimination in social norms.

The variables used as proxies for each indicator depend on data availability, reliability and country coverage. For example, some variables are not available at all (such as information on inheritance practices), and some variables are only available for a few countries (such as the time spent on unpaid care work). Consequently, discrepancies exist between the theoretical framework and the variables effectively included in the SIGI 2019 Global Report. Overall, the SIGI framework builds on 27 core variables.

The conceptual framework for the fourth edition of the SIGI in 2019 was entirely revised, which renders comparison over time impossible at the aggregate level (index, dimensions and indicators). Nevertheless, some comparison over time is possible at the variable level for the attitudes and practices variables. For more details on the SIGI methodology, refer to Annex B.

The data collection process for the fourth edition of the SIGI in 2019 covered 29 countries in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), which is divided into three major sub-regions: the Caribbean (10 countries), Central America (8 countries) and South America (11 countries) (Table 1).

Due to data limitations and the fact that an overall SIGI score can only be computed for countries with data points in every single indicator and variable composing the index, only 18 countries in the LAC region were given a SIGI score in 2019 (Figure 2).

Three countries – namely Argentina, Panama and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (hereafter “Venezuela”) – have enough data to compute scores in 15 SIGI indicators. In Argentina and Panama, the critical missing data point is the lifetime prevalence of domestic violence. In addition to this data point, Venezuela is also missing data on attitudes towards violence against women. Consequently, scores can be calculated for these countries in three of the four SIGI dimensions, with the exception of the “Restricted physical integrity” dimension. Finally, in the remaining eight countries – namely Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, and Guyana – the number of variables with available data ranges from 18 in Dominica to 23 in Belize and Cuba (Table 2). In these eight countries, only one dimension score was computed (“Discrimination in the family”).

The qualitative information for the 29 LAC region country profiles was developed through a multiple-stage internal drafting and reviewing process. First, legal consultants responded to a questionnaire comprising 311 questions on social institutions and fully referenced country profiles, following a standardised structure to ensure comparability across countries/territories. Second, gender experts and/or government representatives with knowledge of the policy and legal landscape for gender equality and women’s rights at a national level validated the responses. The cut-off date for the qualitative information was 31 July 2017. All country profiles can be retrieved from the website

A coding manual was created to quantify the level of legal discrimination based on the qualitative information collected. The coding manual ensures consistency across variables, guarantees objectivity in the selection criteria for scoring, and allows for comparability across countries as well as over time (see Annex B). Of the 311 questions, 144 were used to assign a discrete value to each of the 14 legal variables. The coding manual is based on all applicable legal frameworks, including civil, as well as customary, religious or traditional practices or laws. When information is missing or insufficient, variables do not receive a value. A five-level scale (0, 25, 50, 75 and 1) serves as the basis for encoding the categorical variables and reflects the level of discrimination in formal and informal laws (Table 3).

Quantitative information, such as attitudinal and prevalence data, was collected from various secondary data sources according to the country and variable. The OECD Development Centre’s Gender Team used international data sources – such as Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), the World Values Survey (WVS), and the National Household Survey (NHS) – and then proceeded to harmonise the data in order to ensure comparability across countries. The cut-off date for the quantitative information was 31 December 2017.

The SIGI is a composite index. The scores for the overall index, the dimensions and the indicators range from 0 to 100, with 0 indicating no discrimination and 100 indicating absolute discrimination against women. In order to facilitate the analysis and presentation of results, countries are classified into five categories at the index level, as well as at the dimension and indicator levels. Table 4 summarises the categories and the cut-off points of the different categories based on the SIGI scores on the one hand, and on the dimension and indicator scores on the other hand.


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[9] United Nations (n.d.), Principle 6 | UN Global Compact, (accessed on 12 February 2020).

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