Sunday January 29, 2023

Womenomics in Pakistan

By Zile Huma
April 26, 2021

The term ‘womenomics’ defines the role of women in any economy. Countries can boost their economies by creating knowledge, proper management, and opportunities for womenomics.

Almost 48 percent of Pakistan’s population is made of women. A huge number of women in Pakistan are contributing to its economy in many different ways, which is not properly documented.

According to the Asian Development Bank Policy Brief on ‘Female Labour Force Participation in Pakistan 2016’, Pakistan’s female labor force makes up 25 percent of the total which is quite low as compared to many other regional countries. It further mentions that only 25 percent of women are working from the educated female population of Pakistan.

The government of Pakistan has taken several initiatives to facilitate women regarding employment opportunities. There are special quotas for women in all government jobs including white-collar positions. Similarly, there are strong maternity leave laws for working women. Moreover, Pakistan has passed many progressive laws against harassment of women at the workplace. The government also fixes minimum labor wages every year regardless of gender. There are many financial support programmes for women under the Ehsaas programme to provide seed money to start their businesses. Despite all these initiatives, the low-level of women’s participation in the economy means that concrete steps are required to identify and eradicate the problems.

There are several reasons for the under-representation of women. There are several areas where women's labor is undocumented and unpaid. Such sectors are agriculture and domestic work where women are often not properly paid and not even acknowledged for their services.

A large number of women are running businesses at home like sewing and embroidery for which we do not have exact figures. Many poor women are hired by rich families for domestic chores on daily wages. Similarly, a large number of women are successfully running online businesses. All these roles have a significant contribution in our economy.

According to the governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, only 29 percent of women in Pakistan have a bank account; this is the lowest in the world. Women in backward areas do not have access of and knowledge to open their bank accounts. In addition to that, in many instances the informal earnings of women are deposited in the accounts of male members of their family or given by hand directly.

According to a Unicef report, ‘Education: Giving every child the right to education’ gender-wise, boys outnumber girls at every stage of education in Pakistan. A large number of women are unable to participate in administrative and managerial jobs due to a lack of education. The causes for this gender gap in education are economic, social, and cultural. Similarly, cultural and social norms and patriarchal mindset in some areas also pose as hurdles for active participation of women in the economy.

It is important to document research and evidence-based figures of womenomics in Pakistan both from the formal and informal sectors. This will help devise practical steps to increase women's participation in the economy to strengthen it. The documentation of women working in the informal sector can help increase revenues by increasing the tax net. It also helps devise policies to empower women.

The writer is a graduate in public policy from University of Oxford.

Twitter: @zilehumma_1