Women workforce awaits proper recognition

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No country or society can prosper or even survive without the prominent role of women. Women are an integral part of the economic process of Pakistan, within and outside their homes, in the formal and informal sectors and in urban and rural areas.

The vast majority, 72.2 percent of women are agricultural workers. Manufacturing represents 13 percent of the female labor force and community, personal and social services comprising a further 11 percent. Rural women are major contributors in four sub-sectors of the rural economy, crop production, livestock production, cottage industry, household and family maintenance activities, such as transporting water, fuel and fodder to and from the home, food preparation and preservation and caring for children, the elderly and the disabled women make up 76 percent of all part-time workers and only 25 percent of those acknowledged as full-time workers.

Women workers are full-time workers in all farm sizes in NWFP (89.54%) and Sindh (74, 36%). Punjab shows an almost equal division between full-time workers (55.6%) and part-time workers while in Balochistan 82.84 percent of female family workers are part-time.

The role of woman in our society has changed significantly in the past three decades. She is not waiting for someone to ‘help’ her. She is not demanding any special treatment. Not waiting for assistance. She is ready, prepared, even eager, to overcome whatever hurdles come in her way. She just wants to cross the road on her own.

Gradually things have much improved for a woman, caused by their tremendous determination and courage. Today women are sitting on important positions and achieved great stature in various fields of education, business, army, health, engineering, IT and active participation is seen in the sports and politics area. About 60% of women entrepreneurs in Pakistan run traditional business such as parlors, bakeries, boutiques and the largest number are employed in the Telecom and multinational companies.

Our society is rapidly changing, and there is a silent social revolution taking place with rising number of women joining the workforce and moving up the corporate ladder in Pakistan. More of the women than ever are finding employment, doing everything from pumping gasoline and serving burgers at McDonald’s to running major corporations.

A number of women have moved up into the executive positions. Women now make up 4.6% of board members of Pakistani companies, a tad lower than the 4.7% average in emerging Asia, but higher than 1% in South Korea, 4.1% in India and Indonesia, and 4.2% in Malaysia. Several women fly helicopters and fighter jets in the military and commercial airliners in the state-owned and private airlines in Pakistan.

About 22 percent of Pakistani females over the age of 10 now work, up from 14 percent a decade ago, government statistics show. Women now hold a considerable number of seats in the National Assembly. The cultural norms regarding women in the workplace have changed. Much of the progress has come because women stay in school longer. More than 42 percent of Pakistan’s 2.6 million high school students last year were girls, up from 30 percent 18 years ago. Today, 47 percent of Pakistan’s 1.1 million university students are women, according to the Higher Education Commission. Half of all MBA graduates hired by Habib Bank, Pakistan’s largest lender, are now women. Parents are realizing how much better a lifestyle a family can have if girls work.

Although some obstacles are still there, but now a critical mass of working women at all levels are showing the way to other Pakistani women.

Published in The Asian Telegraph on December 18th, 2018.

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