By Haroon Baloch
|R.I. Khan: Women hand stitching quilt|
Average monthly working wage for women in Pakistan is slightly over 8,000 rupees as against minimum wage notified by the government as 13,000 rupees per month. Whereas only 15.76 percent women have been allowed to take part in the socio-economic uplift of the country with the fact that women constitute more or less 50 percent of total population.
In developed world, women are playing crucial role in the socio-economic development. Countries like Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, France, Russia, Ireland, Portugal, Ukraine, Latvia, Moldova and Estonia are among those where women are treated as equal as men in terms of working wages.
As per the latest available demographics (2013-14) of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), majority of working women come from Punjab province with 12.92 percent share followed by Sindh province with percentage of 2.07. Role of working women in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is highly marginalized with 0.15 and 0.62 percent shares respectively.
Gender discrimination, in general, in Pakistani society is high, but when comes to women working in private sectors, for example in private schools the case is worst where on average well-qualified teachers are getting around around 8,000 rupees a month, says Rosheen Javed, a private school teacher in Rawalpindi.
"Besides low salaries, schools administrations don't clear the dues on time, and the government regulators are least bothered to take notice of these discriminatory behaviours", Ms. Rosheen adds.
“Even though there are working women in Pakistan, there is a general acceptance of resentment against them in public spaces. Men, in fact, are the biggest barriers for women in the public sphere”: says Zoya Rehman, a gender activist from Bytes for All. She further emphasizes that a lot of problems need to be addressed to ensure a more female workforce in Pakistan, because if more Pakistani women make an impact and speak from a position of power, more people will listen.
Punjab, where the share of jobs for women is higher than all other provinces, pays the lowest average monthly wages to working women, which equals to 7,105 rupees. Out of 12.92 percent, around 8.18 percent are drawing up to 5,000 rupees a month on average, while only 1.31 percent are drawing more than 15,000 rupees a month.
Women participation in socio-economic uplift of the country from provinces Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is below 1 percent collectively in terms of their employment share. Most of these women fall in the slab of those drawing more than 15,000 rupees a month. The pattern determines that in the two provinces, only those women can manage to come out of their homes and work, who belong to affluent families.
Similar to patterns in Punjab province, maximum number of working women in Sindh also belong to lower and middle classes who are drawing between 5,000 and 10,000 rupees a month on average.
In comparison to urban areas, women from rural areas of Pakistan are more active in earning livelihoods reasoning mainly the poverty. Some experts also argue that conservativeness in rural areas is less in comparison to urban areas, however, the argument becomes invalid when considering number of human rights violations and suppressions a woman with rural background faces; such as honor killing, wani, swara, etc.
In rural areas, 18.35 percent women work outside their homes to earn bread for families, however, their average monthly income is less than 6,000 rupees. In urban areas, 12.60 percent women get the opportunity to work outside and draw up to 12,500 rupees a month on average.
“The fact Pakistanis need to realize is if more women work, economies will grow, and families will become more financially sustainable and prosperous”: Zoya believes.
She terms the notion that religion does not permit women to work as disingenuous and argues that Islam grants women more rights than Muslims realize, and these rights must be exercised publicly and unapologetically by women.