LAHORE: The law in Pakistan denies women the right to the same working hours as those of men by not allowing them to work late night, says World Bank’s Women Business and Law 2012 report released recently. It further says that women are barred from working in many industries and that there are no laws or constitutional provisions mandating equal pay for equal work.
The report “Removing Barriers to Economic Inclusion” further points out that there are no laws in Pakistan mandating non discrimination in hiring practices on the basis of gender. It is not illegal to ask a prospective employee about martial status during a job interview. Employees with minor children do not have any additional rights to flexible or part time work schedule, it adds. Even the payments made by working mothers for childcare are not tax free, it points out.
The report states that 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 explain this gap, it adds. Successful lady entrepreneurs of Pakistan admit that the discrimination against fair gender is high, but things are improving.
Kiran Chaudhry, the head of a spinning mill and managing committee member of All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, said there is no gender bias at least in the corporate sector. “My being female helps me as my colleagues in the same business extend full cooperation,” she said. She said the law provides equal access to credit to both genders, but somehow the fair gender is generally denied credit. “The lower education level of women is the main hindrance in this regard,” she said. Highly educated women are as successful entrepreneurs as men, she said.
Women rights activist Sofia Asif said that in all economies, married women face as many or more discrimination than unmarried women. Pakistani women in business still complain of problems that are not faced by men, she said.
President Islamabad Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry Samina Fazil said that domestic work takes away a lot of time and energy of women, which makes it difficult for them to run their business successfully. Women are not treated equally and the system pushes them to the back, she added.
Women as CEOs are still not as common as should be in Pakistan, she said. Even educated women in business were discouraged from contesting election in trade associations, but now there are over 70 female board members in business associations across Pakistan, she said.
The Sahiwal Chamber last year elected its first-ever female president. The vice president of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a lady, she added. Naushaba Shakeel, who is associated with a financial association, deplored that women in Pakistan are generally denied permanent contracts, safe work environment, and freedom of association.