Labour force: bleak picture of women's participation

Proceedings of a two-day National Conference titled ‘From Household to Workplace: Reshaping the Lives of Women through Economic Empowerment,’ jointly organised by the International Labour Organization (ILO), Ministry of Labour and Manpower, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Employers and Workers Organization on 4-5 May 2010 in Islamabad.

Press release | 05 May 2010

Presenting a bleak picture of women’s participation in the labour force, speakers at a conference said 79.6 per cent of the total employed persons are male with 20.4 per cent females whereas at the level of occupational group of legislators, senior officials and managers, only 3 per cent are female with 97 per cent seats occupied by men.

These statistics were quoted at the opening session of a two day national conference titled ‘From Household to Workplace: Reshaping the Lives of Women through Economic Empowerment,’ jointly organized by the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, International Labour Organization (ILO), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and Employers and Workers Organization. A large number of government officials, civil society members and researchers attended the event.

Presenting an overview of the participation of women in the labour force, Professor of Economics, Dr Aliya H. Khan said about 75 per cent of the total employed are working women in the agriculture sector with majority of them working as informal or officially unrecognised labour. She said the enhanced role of women in the labour force could be achieved by providing them greater control over decisions related to earnings and expenditures. She said providing education, skill training, means of transportation and a conducive environment at the workplace is the key to improve their active participation in economic activity.

Director of the Gender Reform Action Plan (GRAP), Rehana Hashmi said against the 10 per cent quota allocated for women in the public sector, only five per cent is utilised, adding that among the total 700,000 employees in the public sector, only 21,000 are women. “Realising the need to attract more young graduates towards public sector jobs, the Ministry of Women Development (MoWD) established three career counselling centres in the capital as a pilot project that proved to be success,” she said adding that the Ministry plans to increase the number of such centres at both federal and provincial levels.

Urging greater participation of women in all socio-economic spheres to ensure the even distribution of resources, economic empowerment and gender equality, Federal Secretary for Labour and Manpower, Tariq Iqbal Puri said that imparting skills to women and children is like creating an asset for the country. He said the Government attaches highest priority to women’s economic empowerment and promotion of gender equality, as the country could not achieve its desired development goals without the full participation of women. During the last decade, women’s labour force participation grew substantially in Pakistan but we are at the crossroads as to how to utilise this valuable resource in the best manner,” he said.

The Secretary also highlighted the Government’s commitment to the International Labour Standards and Conventions 100 and 111 of ILO, which bind member countries to eliminate discrimination against women at the workplace, and to uphold the values of human dignity, freedom, social justice and social cohesion. He asked civil society to come up with suggestions on how to involve women in the upcoming skill training programmes to be launched in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa under the project of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZ’s). In addition to experimenting with new innovative ideas, he stressed the need to enhance the efficiency of the existing infrastructure.

According to the National Labour Policy 2010, Ministry of Labour and Manpower plans to offer a cover of benefits, provided under the Workers Welfare Fund, to all those workers who agree to contribute Rs 420 to the Employees Old Age Benefits Institutions (EOBI).

His speech was followed by an intense question and answer session in which the participants demanded the public release of the complete policy draft. President of the Employers Federation of Pakistan (EFP), Haji Muhammad Javed criticised the Ministry for not following the due consultative process with all stakeholders before launching the National Labour Policy 2010.