Find new paths | Political economics

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In 2020, female labor force participation in Pakistan was 21%, which is quite low compared to other countries in similar economic situations. According to the Vision 2025 document, Pakistan ranks among the lowest in the world, as it falls to 144th in terms of women’s participation in the labor market. One of the many reasons is that most women are active in agricultural activities and household chores, and their participation in formal employment is relatively low. Moreover, even if they engage in some form of self-employment or other economic activity, they are largely undocumented and unnoticed for a variety of reasons, including the role of the middleman.

Vision 2025 focuses on increasing women’s participation in the labor market by providing them with opportunities. Women’s education, urbanization and digitalization are all major elements that can contribute to a higher participation rate of women in the labor market. Furthermore, it is crucial to develop opportunities for women and establish a gender-equitable environment in which women can work comfortably. There is also a need to build the capacities of women, especially those who are already involved in economic activity.

Governments can provide opportunities for women and build their capacity through public-private partnerships. National and international development organizations can also take initiatives and play their part. This can not only help women to have a decent source of income, but will also help increase women’s participation rates in the labor market.

Many women in rural areas are skilled in making embroidered garments, which are in great demand and well known throughout the country. These women, on the other hand, do not get a fair price for their skills and labor since they have no direct access to the market. The middleman therefore reaps large profits. The middleman is often handled on behalf of the women by male family members. This makes them more vulnerable and they are often denied the income they deserve. Moreover, they are generally unrecognized and undocumented as contributors.

Efforts can be made to enable these women to use smart cell phones to take orders directly and deliver items using couriers that can also be booked through smartphones. There is also a need to provide these women with their own personal bank accounts so that they can receive the funds without the need for an intermediary. This access to digital technologies and banking services will breathe new life into the economic activity of rural women.

It is crucial to develop opportunities for women and to establish a gender-equitable environment in which women can work comfortably. There is also a need to build the capacity of women, especially those who are already involved in economic activity.

Information technology and digitization open up many new opportunities for women. With government assistance, Pakistan could see an increase in the number of female entrepreneurs and leaders in a variety of service industries. This will empower women, reduce poverty and improve their lives and those of their families.

The internet food delivery industry is becoming increasingly popular and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. Likewise, online taxi companies like Careem, Uber and In-Driver are gaining traction and providing new opportunities. Women in metropolitan areas have many options, but they are deprived of them due to various factors. The biggest factor is the lack of driving skills. Even if a woman wishes to pursue her career, she may be unable to do so due to many factors, including her inability to pay fees to learn to drive.

The government should launch an intervention through a public-private partnership to help women learn to drive, obtain a driver’s license and connect them with food delivery and taxi services.

In cities, the trend of hiring a nanny and babysitters is growing day by day. However, housekeepers often fulfill this function due to the lack of professional babysitters. They are often reprimanded by their parents and families, which makes them lose their dignity and increases their vulnerability. They also spend more than eight hours in the homes where they work and are often paid less than the country’s legal minimum wage.

Training courses can be run with the support of a professional organization to train maids and other interested women in childcare. A session on the use of job search websites such as LinkedIn and Rozee should be included in the training so that they can be identified by employers and have a good chance of getting a job.

Apart from these, there are several areas where the capacities of women can be developed to include them in economic activities. There is also an urgent need to provide a gender-equitable work environment free from abuse, harassment and discrimination, so that women can work with dignity.

The Pakistani government has launched Hunarmand Pakistan under its Kamyab Jawan program, which provides free technical and vocational training. There is a need for awareness raising on this subject, especially in rural areas, and for courses tailored specifically for women. There may be women who are interested in the courses but do not have the necessary academic qualifications. Admission criteria should be modified as appropriate to ensure that talented potential participants are not overlooked.


The author is a communications specialist and a freelance writer. He is based in Rawalpindi and can be contacted at: [email protected] He tweets @qureshiwaqasA


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