Why is women’s labor not valued in Pakistan’s economy?

Last Updated on July 1, 2024 10:18 am

There is a Chinese proverb—women hold up half the sky. But women can only do this if they are not harassed – so said the founder of socialist China, Mao Tse-tung. That is, if women work, it is possible to revolutionize the economic development of a country.

World development is possible through women empowerment. The more women are educated and participate in the workforce, the faster the world will move forward. Recently there has been an economic boom in India, Bangladesh and China through the inclusion of women in the economic mainstream. Meanwhile, women’s participation in economic sectors is decreasing in Pakistan.

It has been found that countries where women work side by side with their men have poverty rates that have almost disappeared or are falling much faster.

Pakistan is yet to realize their true potential. As a result, only 50 percent of the country’s adult population is engaged in economic activities, while the remaining 50 percent of the population, women, remain mostly outside the economic mainstream. This is why when growth accelerates to a certain level in the country, there is a shortage of workers in factories and commercial centers.

Most households in Pakistan depend on male breadwinners. There the role of women is limited to household work. In this situation, if the sole breadwinner is sick or seriously injured, a family has to face poverty.

There is a silent revolution around us where women are making a significant impact on their economy. In China and India, there are thousands of success stories of women workers who are driving the economies of these countries, leading to growth.

Bangladesh has become a role model in poverty alleviation after empowering women to finance through microcredit and large-scale employment in the value-added garment sector.

Women in India get a real taste of equality as they are equally participating in the prosperity of the family. This process has just started in Pakistan but is mostly confined to Karachi and Lahore. For the rest there is significant gender inequality, limited access to education, low formal labor-participation rates and low wages. In Pakistan, although a large number of urban educated women are economically active, most of them are teachers, doctors or personal assistants.

Very few women have climbed the ladder in Pakistan’s corporate sector. There are still thousands of women who have completed their masters or professional degrees in medicine or engineering who are not working in the formal sector and stay at home.

The economic well-being of Pakistan is inextricably linked with the role that the women of this country will play in the next 10-20 years. If Pakistan continues to ignore the productive workforce needed by the country’s economy, it will fall far behind other countries.

The survey found that women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce in the apparel industry worldwide. However, the number of women workers in Pakistan is 10 percent in this sector.

Anne Shanali Weerasuriya, one of the Better Work coaches, said that unlike other garment manufacturing centers around the world, around 80% of the people formally employed in Pakistan’s garment factories are men. Women workers in Pakistan are active in the informal sector, working in their homes through middlemen or factory subcontractors.

According to the World Bank, women’s labor force participation in urban Pakistan is the lowest in the world, at around 10 percent over the past two decades. Many women had to drop out of school due to safety or financial constraints, while others feared resistance from their families and communities when working outside the home.

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