The country’s first-ever gender audit of labour laws may not have turned up any major surprises for those familiar with the existing disparities between male and females in the workplace but they still serve as an eye-opener. As suspected, women’s participation in the labour force is not only less in Pakistan but the ones who are part of the labour force are deprived of their rights and discriminated against. The audit reinforces the need for urgent and thorough review of the existing labour laws and following the international standards in order to provide constitutional rights to the working class and women in particular.
It is no secret that women in South Asia are discriminated against at the workplace. It was identified in 2016, according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, that it will take the region an entire millennium to reach gender equality. Whether it comes to maternity benefits, wage gap or sexual harassment policies, companies are found violating the existing laws without any remorse. The same report placed Pakistan — along with Syria — at the bottom two spots of countries that have closed less than 50% of their economic gender gap.
Pakistan does worryingly little to bridge the gap and administrative weaknesses in the system are to blame for it. The audit report had revealed that both federal and provincial labour departments — responsible to ensure labour laws are implemented — not only lack qualified staff but have poor gender ratios and too few female staff. Participation of women in a team that works towards uplifting their gender is significant.
In view of this, it is important that the government departments follow the recommendations given in the audit report. The audit findings demand some immediate steps. Women legislators in particular should ensure that these recommendations are followed through and as swiftly as possible.