Sinking Ideals And A Burning Economy
“Women in Pakistan have made progress in educational attainment, although this accumulated human capital is underused due to constraints they face to participate in the labor force,” are the words of Mr Najy Benhassine, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan.
Now imagine a Pakistan where women are not just welcomed but celebrated in the workforce. Where laws support the progress and protect women’s rights, enabling them to unleash their full potential and contribute to the economy’s growth. This is the world that the World Bank is striving to create in Pakistan with their latest initiative to support legal reforms that increase women’s participation in the workforce. While recognizing women’s inclusion in the workforce, it’s essential to acknowledge that there are still barriers preventing women from reaching their full potential. Pakistan has a rich cultural heritage, diverse geography, and a large population, but the country also faces significant challenges. Among the most pressing issues are rising inflation, a struggling economy, and underrepresentation of women in the workforce. It’s critical to examine these issues and explore why bringing women into the fold in Pakistan is essential.
Is an inclusive environment the solution?
Pakistan’s economy has been hit hard by rising food and fuel prices, putting an immense strain on the average person’s budget. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the inflation rate reached a monumental 37.81% in 2023, the highest in over a decade. This has made it difficult for families to make ends meet and has contributed to poverty, social unrest, and health and mental wellbeing challenges.
In Pakistan, women often face significant economic challenges, including lower labor force participation rates and fewer opportunities for career advancement. Women are more likely to work in the informal sector, where wages are lower, and job security is limited. In fact, according to a report by the International Labor Organization, nearly 75% of women in Pakistan work in the informal economy. Women’s lack of access to formal jobs often makes them the first to be let go during economic downturns. In addition, women in Pakistan face discrimination in the workplace, with many being subjected to gender-based violence and harassment. According to a study by the Aurat Foundation, a women’s rights organization in Pakistan, over 70% of women in the country have experienced some form of gender-based violence in their lifetime. These factors all contribute to the economic marginalization of women in Pakistan and make it difficult for them to achieve financial independence.
Despite making up 49.2% of the country’s population, women in Pakistan are still vastly underrepresented in the workforce. According to the World Bank, only 22.7% of women in Pakistan are part of the labor force. This is in stark contrast to the global average of 48.5%. Limiting the number of women in the workforce has significant implications for the country’s economic potential, as it restricts the pool of skilled and talented individuals available to contribute to the nation’s growth and development.
When will Pakistan resolve this inequality? The answer is complex and requires a multi-faceted approach. Policies promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment need to be focused upon and implemented in letter and spirit. This could include measures such as providing affordable childcare, increasing access to education and training opportunities for women.
When and where do we start?
The world is constantly changing and evolving, and so is the world of work. With technological advancements and the increasing importance of globalization, industries are undergoing a transformation that is creating new opportunities for young women. Women are becoming increasingly prominent in different fields, bringing fresh perspectives and innovative ideas that are reshaping the future of businesses.
However, according to data from the World Economic Forum, it will take another 150 years to close this gap at the current rate of progress. But the impact of these attitudes extends far beyond pay equity. Women are often held to higher standards, expected to work longer hours, and subjected to greater scrutiny in their professional lives. Executive and board positions need more female representation to drive diversity of perspectives and cultivate corporate cultures that inform organizational decision-making. Another research highlights the importance of empowering young women and providing them with leadership opportunities. The article emphasizes that young women can play a critical role in reshaping the future of their communities and industries. By investing in the development and advancement of young women, the future of Pakistan can become brighter and more prosperous.
The World Bank’s blog “Enabling More Pakistani Women to Work” highlights the challenges women face in Pakistan’s workforce and the benefits that increased female labour force participation can bring to the country’s economy. The research emphasizes the need for policy changes that support women’s economic empowerment and remove barriers to their entry and advancement in the workforce.
These legal reforms include measures such as equal pay for equal work, protection against sexual harassment in the workplace, and creating a supportive environment for women to thrive. The World Bank is also working to remove the barriers that prevent women from accessing education and training so that they can build the skills they need to succeed in the workplace.
Embracing Diversity: Women leading the way
The good news is that the corporate sector is now recognizing the need for a more inclusive workplace culture that promotes equity and values the contributions of all employees. By embracing fairness, organizations can help to break down patriarchal attitudes and create a level playing field for women and other marginalized groups.
Many organizations are now working towards achieving diversity and inclusivity regardless of gender, race, culture, or faith. One such organization is TPL Insurance, which enables women professionally and has taken initiatives to bring them to the frontline, making women everyday heroes. Like many other organizations that believe in empowering them, TPL Insurance is providing daycare facilities for working mothers. To honor women for their unwavering contributions, TPL Insurance celebrated National Working Women’s Day with an interactive session for women to share their experiences, motivations, and challenges.
One of the key steps that organizations can take to promote equity is to implement policies and practices that support gender equality. This includes flexible work arrangements, promoting work-life balance, and providing equal pay and benefits to the workforce. It also requires a cultural shift that values and celebrates the contributions of the workforce, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, or other characteristics.
TPL Insurance firmly believes in gender equality and initiated Paternity leaves policy, realizing the important role fathers can play during and post childbirth. Speaking about embracing equity, Ms. Sarah Dawood, Head of Corporate Brand -TPL Insurance, said, “When women and persons with disabilities are included, compensated fairly, and empowered, a company truly starts building organizational efficiency and equity; diverse teams bring a mass of insights that develop an inclusive approach, hence greater long-term results for the business. More and more companies need to intentionally embed diversity.”
To further gender inclusivity and bringing a change, TPL Insurance appointed a female director on the Board. The company hopes to inspire their female workforce to grow into senior management roles. TPL also won the Global Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Benchmarks Awards 2021 in “Work Life Integration”, and “Flexibility and Benefits” categories.
To drive financial inclusion TPL Insurance is offering exclusive discounts for women throughout March with up to 30% off on different products and services, including auto, travel, home, bike insurances and a unique health cover ‘Women Shield” for women aged 18 to 55 years. Women can easily avail discounts using the code ‘TPLI4WMN’ on the TPL Insurance app.
TPL is also part of the “Climate2Equal Call to Action” initiative, which was organized by The Pakistan Business Council in partnership with the International Finance Corporation. This shows their commitment to promoting gender-inclusive climate action, pledging to advance the agenda that gender diversity improves the private sector’s response to climate-related risks and helps capture various opportunities.
Where do we go from here?
Pakistan’s rising inflation, the failing economy, and the underrepresentation of women in the workforce are serious issues.
By working together to empower women, the government, corporate sector, and citizens can create a brighter future for the country as a whole. Implementing policies to support women’s economic empowerment, removing barriers to entry and advancement in the workforce, and addressing gender-based violence or harassment in the workplace are the starting point for a better and progressive future for Pakistan.