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Gender responsive policies can increase women workforce, economic empowerment

Gender responsive policies can increase women workforce, economic empowerment

“Denying equal opportunities and participation to almost half of our population [the women] simply means we’re wasting a lot of untapped potential”

ISLAMABAD – A comprehensive report, highlighting different facets of Pakistani women’s economic empowerment, recommends gender responsive infrastructure in places such as daycare centers, anti-sexual harassment mechanisms, safe and affordable transport, to encourage economically inactive women to join the formal workforce as well as ensure retention for the existing women workforce.

The Status Report 2016, produced with support from the Governments of Norway and Denmark, by UN Women in collaboration with National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women) emphasizes the complex and multifaceted concept of women’s economic empowerment.

“Women’s economic work, paid and unpaid, needs to be recognized, acknowledged and tracked at District and provincial levels in Pakistan so that Pakistan can report on SDG 5” urges Dr. Yasmin Zaidi, Lead Researcher/Author of the Report andDirector of Center of Gender and Policy Studies (CGaPs).  She said the robust data on employment and earnings can help provinces to plan where to allocate resources so all districts can prosper and generate decent employment, and manage the flow of economic migration within the country.

Ms. Sana Mahmud, panelist and Captain of National Women’s Basketball Team spoke about the gender pay gap.

“The wage gap for men and women remains high, even within the realm of sport. Female athletes – doing exactly what the men are doing – are many at times paid less than their male counterparts. This in turn, creates an even more difficult situation for women who are already struggling to participate fully and equally in sports, and are further disillusioned by the lack of incentives provided, including monetary remuneration” Ms. Mahmud said.

Mr. Mohsin Afzal, panelist and Founder and CEO Studios addressed Pakistan’s untapped women workers saying: “While there is no denying that gender equity is strong moral and humanitarian issue, I feel a lot of people don’t understand that it has economic implications as well. Denying equal opportunities and participation to almost half of our population [the women] simply means we’re wasting a lot of untapped potential.”

Pakistan’s ‘Women Economic Participation and Empowerment – Status Report 2016’ looks at social and economic vulnerabilities that keep the Pakistani woman underpaid and overworked, even when she has overcome structural and social barriers to seek employment.

Whilst Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan ‘guarantees citizens the right to pursue economic opportunities irrespective of sex, caste or creed and related labour laws’, and the Government of Pakistan’s Vision 2025 also recognizes expanding women’s participation and access to opportunities, Pakistan still ranks 143 out of 145 countries in economic participation and opportunities as per the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2015.

Ms. Helle Nielsen, Chargé d’Affaires, Embassy of Denmark, Islamabad in her remarks said: “Investing in girls and women is not only the right thing to do but also a smart thing to do, as research shows that investing in girls and women is the most effective investment in development, reaching far beyond the individual women.” Ms. Nielsen gave the example about how women spend 90% of their salary on their children and the health, education and well-being of their family, while men only spend 30 to 40%.

“Investing in women’s economical participation is a direct way to gender equality, poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth, but in order for the world to experience progress, we need to give girls and women the equal opportunities to which they are entitled. This will not only benefit girls and women but societies at large”, said Ms. Nielsen.

She also shared that Denmark was proud to be hosting the world’s largest global conference on women and girls’ rights, ‘Women Deliver’, which is currently taking place in Copenhagen.

Mr. Jamshed Kazi, Country Representative, UN Women Pakistan, said: “This comprehensive report captures different facets of women’s economic empowerment from the relations between malnutrition and lesser opportunities in the workforce to the extra burden of humanitarian crisis on women. Providing equal opportunities for better quality education is also critical for women and girls to improve their employment options.”

Speaking during the panel discussion, Ms. Khawar Mumtaz, panelist and former Chairperson National Commission on the Status of Women, appreciating the study said “This publication deserves special appreciation for developing the Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) Index for the first time in Pakistan. The Index will help in ranking the WEE status by districts and provide a mechanism to measure progress and pinpoint areas that require more concerted attention.”

The Chief Guest and Chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, Ms. Fauzia Viqar congratulated NCSW and UN Women for producing a very informative report and stressed the importance of data collection for informed policies, actions and to measure progress. “This data would surely help us in correct decision making and we hope that the analysis would inform development schemes of the Government of Pakistan” she said.

Key Findings of Women Status Report 2016:

The Report highlights specific aspects of women’s economic empowerment (such as employment, type of employment and wages, vulnerable work and the working poor), and recommends a concerted effort to improve women’s access, opportunities and capabilities in order for them to participate as full economic actors in development and growth of a dynamic Pakistan that the Vision 2025 seeks.

1. Human, financial and physical capital

  • Gender parity in education ranges from 0.8 at all levels of school and 0.9 at Degree College and above. Net enrollment rates however remain low for both girls and boys.
  • Training for women remains underutilized and confined to a few traditional skills such as embroidery, knitting and sewing. The proportion of women who have received technical or vocational training is a low 11 per cent.
  • The low health status of women inextricably linked to their vulnerable position in society, the continued high fertility, reflected also in the child dependency ratio increases women’s reproductive burden.
  • Access to finance has improved somewhat for women with the use of digital technology, but there is a huge gap: Only 5% of women and 21% of men of 15 years and above hold an account. Microfinance institutions have improved condition of women but only 13% of women are able to access loans from microfinance organizations.
  • Limited access and ownership of physical capital, economic and social status. According to Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey (PDHS 2012-13), only 2% of women in Pakistan own land and a similar percentage own a house. Around 7.4% of women have joint ownership of a house.

2. Employment

  • The percentage of women in the labour force remains a low 26% for women ages 15-64 years, equivalent to 14.4 million women. Almost 41 million women in this age group, about 36% of the entire population, remain out of the labour force.
  • Almost 32% of women in the labour force have a college degree or higher, while a similar percentage has no education.
  • Women comprise 39% of the labour force in the agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing sector (with 73% of employed women working in this sector), 22% in the community, social and personal services sector and 20% in Manufacturing.
  • Within occupations, the share of women’s employment is high in the category of skilled agriculture and fishery workers (38%), professionals (30%), elementary occupations (21%) and crafts and related trades (18%).
  • Around 30% of women and 3% of men in the labour force are homebased workers. Of the total wages of Rs. 400 billion earned by these women and men, women’s contribution is 65%.

3. Vulnerable Employment

Vulnerability in employment is due to the nature of the work, the nature of the contract, and whether it is in the formal or the informal sector. 73% of all employment in Pakistan is concentrated in the informal sector a figure that is relatively unchanged over the past decade. Of the 27% of women employed in non-agricultural work, more than two thirds are in the informal sector and only 22% in the formal sector.

4. Earnings

    • In Pakistan, earning ratio for women is higher where the occupation requires higher educational levels. Women engineers earn almost 90% of what male engineers do; however secondary school teachers earn only 60% of their male counterparts and primary school teachers even lower at 43%.
    • The gender wage gap is a global phenomenon. Regression results show that men in Pakistan earn 71% more than women on average, controlling other individual, educational and labor characteristics, pointing to the significant sex discrimination in remuneration.

Minimum wages

  1. Returns to employment, and to education remain low: 30% of female graduates earned below the minimum wage of PKR 10,000 per month compared to 10% of male graduates.
  2. The vulnerable nature of their work in the informal sector is compounded by the low wages earned. 77% of women earn less than the minimum wage of PKR 10,000 (in 2013-14) compared to 42% of men

Unpaid family workers:

  1. The Labour Force Survey defines Contributing family worker as “a person who works without pay in cash or in kind on an enterprise operated by a member of her/his household or other related persons.” An estimated 10.8 million individuals in the labourforce are unpaid family workers in Pakistan. Of these 59% of women and 88% of men are fulltime unpaid workers.
  2. The value of unpaid family workers is the amount due to them as wages if they were to be paid, and can be seen as their “contribution” to the family and the national economy. This work is valued at PKR 1065 billion, equivalent to 10.4% of GDP. The value of women’s unpaid family work is valued at approximately PKR 410.9 billion i.e. 39% of the value of all the unpaid work.

Key Recommendations:

  • The government should implement the 10% quota for women in government service without further delay, and include an increase in number of women in the police force and law enforcement and female judges at all levels.
  • Legislation to recognize homebased workers and bring them within the ambit of labour laws and social security.
  • Implement the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981 to enforce the 2% quota of employment for persons with disabilities in the public and private sector.
  • Facilitate women’s ownership of land and physical assets, again through a mix of tax credits and rewards.
  • Develop technical training institutions that can equip individuals with skills aligned with market demands and technology.
  • Improve the type and value of microfinance available to women and introduce innovative projects to engage women.
  • Corporate social responsibility conditions, enforced through legislation and relevant mechanisms, should ensure above minimum wage incomes, day care centers for women employees, separate toilets and spaces for women employees, and a safe, free of harassment.

Enhanced economic opportunities: With the right skills and opportunities women can help businesses and markets grow. Focus on education and training that provides women with market demand-driven skills and knowledge and on business development (microenterprises and SMEs) so they can take advantage of economic opportunities. Essential to include women with disabilities; excluding persons with disabilities incurs an economic loss of approximately USD $ 12 to 15 billion per annum for
Pakistan, equivalent to approximately 5% of GDP.

Strengthen women’s agency: Focus on building the social capital, leadership, decision-making status of women is required. Women’s 33% representation in decision making bodies such as boards and committees should be introduced in all public and private sector entities. Initiatives that address social norms that hinder women’s participation in economic, social and political spheres should be prioritized as an integral part of the first two components.

About Sana Jamal

Sana Jamal is a journalist from Pakistan who writes for local and international news media. She also manages Islamabad Scene
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