ISLAMABAD: More than a quarter of Pakistan's women workforce have been fired or suspended as the lockdown to curb the novel coronavirus came into effect, while a majority of those laid off reported they had not been paid their dues, a survey report released Friday indicated.
According to a survey of 904 respondents conducted by the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) between April 15-30, 26% of the women workforce has either been terminated or suspended and of those, 14% lost their jobs permanently whereas 12% were temporarily laid off.
Of the women who were terminated, the largest proportion was of factory workers. Separately, 51% of the total respondents who were laid off said they were awaiting their dues to be cleared by their employers.
The survey results were released on Labour Day, with the FAFEN terming them "serious violations of the guidelines issued by the federal and provincial governments" to protect workers' rights amid the coronavirus lockdown.
It included respondents from Faisalabad, Haripur, Lahore, Sialkot, Peshawar, Rahimyar Khan, Quetta, and Karachi, with their professions ranging from factory workers, salespersons, and employees of private schools, hospitals, and other commercial establishments. At least 7% were daily wagers, 85% paid on a monthly basis, and 8% on a weekly or bimonthly basis.
The FAFEN has raised alarm over the dismal report, urging "the federal and provincial governments to take immediate actions to ensure that employers do not terminate or suspend the employment of workers, particularly women during the ongoing lockdown in the wake of COVID-19".
Interestingly, women bear a relatively bigger brunt of the lockdown as not only have some of them lost their jobs but their unpaid labour at home has increased multifold.
The body also lamented mass layoffs despite "multiple tax rebates, easy credits, and utilities’ relief schemes" from the government. It stressed that the incumbent government's social security programme remained "out of reach for most of the workers".
Of those who were let go by their employers, 78% were unaware if they had been registered with any social security organization. On the other hand, 13% noted that they were registered with Employees’ Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI) and only 1% with Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP).
A mere 28% of the women workforce were able to apply for support under the PTI-government’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme.
Shedding light on the workplace arrangements and precautions, the women complained of occupational safety hazards and lack of adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures. Of the total respondents, almost half — 49% — said there were no measures to protect employees from the pandemic at their offices.
Citing the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics' (PIDE) forecast, the FAFEN further warned that daily wagers and contractual workers were at the brink as the virus crisis may force "71 million people below the poverty line and may cost 18 million workers their jobs".
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