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Pakistan needs laws to increase women participation in workforce

Pakistan needs laws to increase women participation in workforce

LAHORE: Leaving women out of the main economic stream has checked growth in Pakistan, as mostly women are unskilled and employed informally at low wages, while more men work at skilled jobs.

Women in Pakistan do not have the right to same working hours as that of men, they are barred from working in many industries; and there are no laws or constitutional provisions mandating equal pay for equal work.

Moreover, there are no laws in Pakistan mandating non-discrimination in hiring practices on the basis of gender. Even in offices, where well-educated women do get jobs, their marital status matters.

It is illegal in developed economies to ask a prospective employee about marital status during a job interview. In Pakistan such questions are a norm and women with no family strings are preferred over more experienced candidates.

Employees with minor children do not have any additional rights to flexible or part time work schedule. Even the payments made by working mothers for childcare are not tax free. Globally, women represent 49.6 percent of the total population, but they constitute only 40.8 percent of the total workforce in the formal sector.

Differences in the way men and women are treated under the law may, in part, explain this gap. This gap in Pakistan is very high. Only a little over 20 percent of the workable age women are economically active.

Successful lady entrepreneurs of Pakistan admit that the discrimination against their gender is still high; however things are improving with time. Some find it advantageous, as being female entrepreneurs their colleagues in the same business extend full cooperation and help. But most of the women in Pakistan work informally and are cruelly exploited.

They get less pay than the men for doing the same job. They are not respected or facilitated. Rural working women particularly suffer more than urban women workers.

There is not only a need for legislations to remove barriers to women’s entry in business, but also dire need to change the attitude of the society.

For instance, the law provides equal access to credit to both genders but somehow women are generally denied credit.

The lower education level of women is in fact the main hindrance in this regard as highly educated women are as successful as male entrepreneurs.

Measuring how regulations and institutions differentiate between women and men in ways that may affect women’s incentives or capacity to work or to set up and run a business provides a basis for improving regulation. In most economies, married women face as many or more differentiations compared to unmarried women.

Pakistani women in business still complain of drawbacks they face. Take for instance the domestic as well as other burdens that take away lots of their time and energy, which make it difficult for women to run an enterprise as successfully as men.

Women as CEOs are still not as common as should be in Pakistan. Historically, even educated women in business were discouraged to run for high positions in trade associations, but now there are over 70 female board members in business associations across Pakistan.

In addition, the Sahiwal Chamber in Central Punjab, which has 400 members, had the honour of electing its first-ever female president about six years back. Despite this progress Gender Profile of Pakistan is deplorable. In fact, the status of women in Pakistan is among the lowest in the world.

UNDP describes the strong “inside/outside” dichotomy in Pakistan, where women are restricted to the “inside” space of home and household, embodied in the tradition of veiling. Experts deplore that generally women in Pakistan are denied permanent contracts; safe and non-hazardous work environments; and freedom of association. Sexual harassment in the workplace, and workplace-related sexual violence, is a particularly egregious and widespread form of discrimination against women.

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