Gender in Pakistan

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Suffering from second worst gender gap in it economy, succeeded only by Afghanistan, Pakistan ranks at 145 among 146 countries included in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report. It said Pakistani women have the smallest share of senior, managerial and legislative roles (4.5%), compared to Jamaica, where women represent 56.6% of workers in that category. The country was among the worst in terms of healthcare parity and education. However, the education gap was not as significant as several other categories. The only list in which Pakistan cracked the top 100 was political empowerment 95th which is largely attributable to reserved seats rather than direct political participation.

However, there was some silver lining. Pakistan’s improvements in most categories were its highest ever since the first report was published in 2006, and the only notable decline was in labor force participation, which was also severely affected by the economic upheaval of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Average wages for women were actually up, as was educational attainment. However, the latter number was skewed due to a reduction in the number of men considered literate.

It is also worth noting that South Asia remains, in general, a weak performer. Apart from Bangladesh, which was in 71st place, most other countries were outside the top 100. Even India, the region’s most populous country, was just 10 spots ahead of Pakistan, the lowest rank for any major economy. The report also warns that governments and the private sector must come up with “targeted policies to support women’s return to the workforce and women’s talent development in the industries of the future”, lest the gains of several decades be erased.

But for Pakistan, it is not just a matter of policies or incentives. Under utilization of the economic potential of half our population has been a major factor in the country’s failure to develop, but unfortunately, social norms cannot change overnight, and several people still frown upon the idea of women working, especially alongside men. The fear of independence earned by working women has led toxic relationships and families to suppress women’s rights to work. Unless there are proper laws in place, women will be marginalized forever and their rights will be stolen by unsecure men.

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