Women rights and their participation in the country’s economic sphere has been a critical discussion point, particularly in recent years as the focus shifts towards detection and addressal of gender disparity in developing countries. The World Bank, in its Pakistan@100 initiative, has critically pointed out that to progress on socio-economic parameters and transition into an upper-middle-class income by the year 2047, it is significant to bring down the barriers that are resisting the participation of marginalised groups – which in our case, unfortunately, are women.
According to Pakistan’s inclusive growth targets, Pakistan needs to elevate women’s participation in the workforce to rise from the current 26 per cent to 45 per cent. Women’s participation rate has almost doubled in 22 years (1992-2014). However, with youth making up most of the workforce, we need to take concrete measures to eradicate hurdles contributing towards this widening gender gap.
To improve the condition overall, we need to focus on key areas that will improve the state of affairs – particularly reproductive health services and education. Half of the Pakistani women have not even attended school. Presently, only 10 per cent of women has post-secondary education whereas their chances of working for pay increased three-fold with post-secondary education. Needless to say, educated women are likely to get better jobs and have improved employment prospects.
Pakistan also failed to meet the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) of the target of reducing maternal mortality ratio to 150. This calls for the implementation of strict anti-early age marriage laws and to invest in transforming behaviours of parents and society on such practices.
”Without increasing women’s participation, Pakistan cannot meet its development targets or reasonably expect to become a competitive state and society in the 21st century.”
Speaking about unpaid care work and the informal economy, women are 10 times more involved in household chores, child and elderly care than men in Pakistan. This leads to them having no time to develop skills can be monetized and forces them to stay in poverty. The social norms and constraints also limit the role of women within four walls. Normalising adoption and effective implementation of home-based and domestic workers laws is needed to protect the women, addressing the issue of the informal economy and lack of access to social security.
Another hurdle contributing to the widening gender gap is the issue of harassment and unsafe public places. According to a survey in 2013, less than half of women under study that they feel safe while walking around in their neighbourhoods and such women are also more likely to work than women who do not feel safe. To cater to this issue, stringent laws are needed to curb down harassment and deal with those committing these crimes. The sense of protection will encourage more women to contribute to economic activity.
One critical issue needing our attention, as Uzma Quresh writes in her article, is the availability of gender-friendly services at workplaces.
”Formal sector has massive disparities in terms of women’s underrepresentation in almost all areas of economic activity. A recent study highlights that Pakistan has the highest gender wage gap in the world that gets more pronounced by women’s minimal representation in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields because apparently women in some of these fields experience relatively less wage disparity (10pc) compared to other sectors” – she writes.
Lastly, Pakistan needs to enable an environment for women-owned businesses. Globally it is a noticeable trend that women-owned businesses are seen to hire more women and have a more gender-friendly environment. While in Pakistan, women entrepreneurs make less than 1pc. To address this, Punjab adopted inheritance laws reforms. The purpose of the law was to improve women’s access to their inherited agricultural land and urban property that can also improve their access to finance.
To overcome challenges, it is imperative for Pakistan to consider these significant reforms and improve women participation in economic activities as it is crucial for the country’s progress.
Via || DAWN
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