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Monday, 18 March 2019

The Plight of Domestic Workers in Pakistan

By Kabeer Dawani

Photo credit: Facebook.com/Maid2Shop

One aspect of the Aurat March 2019 which, amidst the backlash from the patriarchy, did not receive much attention was female domestic workers coming out in significant numbers to ask (among other things) for their right to fair compensation. As seen above, they asked, “Do you pay your domestic workers the minimum wage?”

This is not an unreasonable question, but the fact of the matter is that, as a society, we don’t treat our labour well. This is true for labour across sectors (agricultural, industrial, and the service sector). Labour laws are routinely circumvented, and state enforcement of those laws is lax at best. (For example, see this recent report by Human Rights Watch documenting egregious violations in the garments industry.)

Domestic work, however, is perhaps one of the most exploitative forms of labour. Globally, the ILO estimated that domestic work is the number one form of forced labour in 2017. There is little research on Pakistan specifically. In one of the only studies on domestic work in Pakistan, Haris Gazdar and Ayesha Khan find that some domestic labour arrangements “come very close to outright slavery” due to the bondage that is created by employees borrowing in advance of their salaries.

This is just one form of exploitation however. As the Tayabba torture case demonstrated, other issues abound: child labour is rampant; there is widespread verbal, sexual and physical abuse, including inhumane work hours; and wages for domestic workers are far below minimum wage. In short, they do not have human dignity.

In particular on the minimum wage, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) can be used to provide an illustration of what is a startling picture. In 2017-18, more than half of those employed earned a monthly wage that was below the minimum wage of Rs.15,000. Specifically for the category ‘household employees’, the average wage is Rs.9,272. Most remarkable perhaps is the gender wage gap: female domestic workers earn Rs.6,098, almost two-thirds below the legal minimum wage and more than half of what men earn. It is thus clearly also a gendered issue.

Further, on such low income, it is no surprise that these workers have to take on insurmountable amounts of debt, are not able to send their children to school, and suffer from poor nutrition and health outcomes.

Are Domestic Workers Entitled to a Minimum Wage?

When you ask someone if they pay their domestic workers minimum wage, their response is usually a self-serving justification that domestic workers don’t fall under minimum wage laws. This is, unfortunately, largely true (but no less morally reprehensible).

Until a few months ago, no legislation existed across Pakistan for the protection of domestic workers. Although the Senate passed a bill a few years ago, this has not yet been enacted by the National Assembly. It was only at the end of January 2019 that legislation formalizing domestic workers was passed in Punjab. This Act criminalizes work below the age of 15, stipulates that domestic workers must be paid minimum wage as set by the Minimum Wage Board, and includes several benefits, such as sick and maternity leave and pensions. The legislation is progressive and unprecedented in Pakistan. Indeed, no other province has formalized domestic work yet.

While legislation will not change things overnight, and there are serious issues of implementation, it sets an important direction for a more equitable Pakistan. In a setting where market power determines wages – and employers have all the power – legislating for a minimum wage (and ideally a living wage) for domestic workers also creates the baseline for changing social norms. One hopes the other provinces can follow Punjab’s example sooner rather than later.

Nevertheless, taking care of those who literally take care of you, your children, and your home should be the humane thing to do, even if it isn’t the legal thing to do. I would like to end by quoting from a superb recent essay in the New York Times by Princeton Sociologist, Mathew Desmond, in which he powerfully illustrates the human impact of higher minimum wages:

“A $15 minimum wage is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A diet. A stress reliever. It is a contraceptive, preventing teenage pregnancy. It prevents premature death. It shields children from neglect.”

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Challenges of Empowerment for Women in Politics: Resources, Voice and Agency


By Zonia Yousuf Baltistani
Source: publicdomainfiles.com


In today’s development context the notion of women’s empowerment has replaced a more confrontational and political discourse of women’s rights. With major development frameworks, like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, the demand for gender equality through women’s empowerment and inclusiveness has gained currency; the idea is to leave no one behind.

I believe this approach has transformed empowerment into a creative force; a resourceful power which is used to achieve and to accomplish. Scholars like Naila Kabeer, view empowerment in terms of the means that allow women to make strategic life choices: access to resources, enhanced voice and increased agency. In light of this understanding, how much (or little) has changed for women in politics? How empowered are women in politics in Pakistan?

It is safe to say that changes in the political arena have led to an increased number of resources that woman politicians have at their disposal. The Parliament itself, through an Act, created the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services (PIPS), which provides research and capacity building services to all parliamentarians. Various workshops and trainings have been conducted by PIPS specifically for female parliamentarians to realize their leadership potentials and enhance their jurisdictive abilities.

The institute not only responds to research requests from parliamentarians but also aids them in the process of making informed legislative decisions by conducting comparative studies, offering bill drafting services, assisting in developing parliamentary committee reports, talking points, background papers and policy briefs. The institute conducts a Parliamentarians Orientation Program for newly elected members to familiarize them with the procedures of the parliament along with more specialized trainings such as annual pre and post budget seminars which aim to better equip the parliamentarians for deliberations on the budget. Female parliamentarians are equal participants in all activities. Further, the political parties in Pakistan are largely structured to have women wings as an inclusionary measure.

Policy changes leading to reserved seats for women, 10 per cent requirement of women’s voter turnout, five per cent reserved general seats for women, creation of gender-centric supporting bodies like the national and provincial Women’s Parliamentary Caucuses and the national and provincial Commissions on the Status of Women, have increased the participation of female politicians leading to more inclusion.

However, our research with 200 female parliamentarians (2013-2018) from the National Assembly, Senate and the Provincial Assemblies revealed that female parliamentarians continue to operate in hostile environments. There is still a considerable amount of silencing and exclusion that these women face within their parties as well as on the floor of the parliament. The following table describes findings from the survey indicating that women in politics are subject to various forms of sex- based discrimination and harassment:


Findings from interviews with key informants uncovered that women parliamentarians are on occasion either physically excluded from meetings and discussions or encounter a suppression of their voices when present. Their voice is minimally included in party polices, even when decisions regarding their own political careers are being made by the party.

Our study divulges that despite the available resources, female politicians continue to lack space and agency (excluding a few exceptions to the norm). The agency of women in Caucuses to legislate on women’s issues is constrained by party policies which is why they might not be able to vote in favor of progressive legislation for women. The unsuccessful attempt to pass the domestic violence bill in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the last government is one such example.

Despite the existence of women’s wings, female politicians are not adequately represented at decision making levels; most political parties do not have women as top leadership. Women wings are used as campaigning bodies for male candidates rather than training grounds for women candidates to run in their own right. The findings from the interviews indicate that women politicians aren’t treated at par with their male counterparts by the party leaders.

The dearth of voice and agency can be causally linked to an absence of accountability within political parties. Even though frameworks to ensure female participation exist, there is a lack of internal accountability mechanisms within political parties. For example, Ayesha Gulalai’s sexual harassment charges were never formally investigated within Parliament or her party. The concept of women’s empowerment, particularly within the political domain, needs to be coupled with the notions of transparency, accountability, democratic decision making and rule of law.


Monday, 28 January 2019

Using wood as fuel

By Hussain Bux Mallah
A rural woman cooking roti using firewood as fuel
Photo credit: Wasim Gazdar

Recently, the PTI government rolled out 350,000 hectares of forests under the ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project in KP. Given the applause that it received from national and international media, the newly elected government at the centre launched a tree plantation drive ‘Plant4Pakistan’ across the entire country. While this is likely to have positive implications for climate change, the resources invested in this project will provide little direct benefits to the poor. The impact of pollution on their health can be reduced if more investments are made in cleaner fuel.

Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2012-13 survey reports that majority of rural population has limited access to cleaner energy sources such as natural gas. According to Household Integrated Economic Survey (HIES) 2015-16, a major share of fuel and lighting expenditure in rural households is incurred on firewood. About 31 percent of the fuel expenditure is on firewood, 8 percent comprises of dung cakes, 2 percent is coal, charcoal and kerosene and 9 percent is gas (via pipes or cylinders). A number of these fuel sources lead to high levels of pollution.

Even within poor households, pollutants from fuel affect the vulnerable the most. Our fieldwork in rural areas of Sindh found that preparing kitchen fuel and cooking are gendered activities. Collection of fuel is also time consuming, particularly for women and children. Many adolescent girls are withdrawn from school to help in domestic chores especially those relating to cooking. They also have to travel long distances to fetch wood.

Household Air Pollution (HAP) from cooking fuel is associated with a modest increase in child mortality. Women and adolescent girls are most vulnerable to health risks because of their exposure to smoke resulting from burning of firewood which releases carbon monoxide. Infants are particularly susceptible to diseases which can cause premature deaths. The study also provides the link between HAP and low birth weight, neonatal, post-neonatal deaths. Various chronic diseases are also associated with HAP including pneumonia, tuberculosis and asthma.

Women’s exposure to smoke increases when they have to cook inside rooms during monsoon season. A household needs more fuel in windy, rainy and cold weather requiring women to heat water for their male members. Most women do multiple activities at a time, for example, cooking and breastfeeding are done simultaneously. In case of natural hazards such as floods, cooking becomes a high stressor for women.

Although tree plantation drives seem to be high priority areas of investment for governments, I strongly think that policymakers should also address the rights of the marginalized rural population using traditional energy sources. There is a need to increase access to cleaner sources like natural gas. A majority of rural areas are currently not connected to the gas supply system. Provision of gas pipelines is a federal subject and should be prioritized for improved health outcomes.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Towards a new regional agenda: bringing visibility to rural women in South Asia

By Saba Aslam
Women picking cotton in the fields, Sindh province
Photo credit: Wasim Gazdar
Across the world, women form an integral part of the agricultural sector. In much of South Asia, women make up a majority of the agricultural workforce, but the extent of their contribution remains unacknowledged in policy and public debates. They often undertake difficult physical labour, working long hours and are paid lower wages compared to their male counterparts if they are paid at all. LANSA research identified women’s agriculture work in South Asia as a critical mediating factor between household poverty and undernutrition. The recognition of women’s agricultural work and women as agricultural workers, moreover, was identified as a key entry point for leveraging agriculture for the improvement of nutrition.

LANSA research in India and Pakistan has already made a significant contribution to national debates and policy thinking on women agricultural workers. The ANH Academy Week in Kathmandu in 2017 offered an opportunity for taking this dialogue to the regional level. The advantages were clear. Despite many differences across the region – even within large countries such as India and Pakistan – there are many common strands that cross national boundaries. LANSA had already shown the value of collaborative research across these boundaries. It was also obvious that other researchers working on these issues had adopted comparable approaches and came up with similar findings. The diverse experiences across countries of engagements with policy and political processes also promised to be huge sources of insight and inspiration.

In 2018 LANSA was able to form a partnership with an influential global and regional stakeholder – namely UNWomen – to co-host a regional roundtable Recognizing the Rights of Women Agricultural Workers in South Asia: Roundtable on Policy, Politics and Impact. This was held in Bangkok in October 2018 and brought together a diverse group of stakeholders from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, including policymakers, representatives from governments, universities and research institutions, international organizations, civil society organizations (CSOs) and grassroots activists. The roundtable provided an exciting opportunity for the sharing of research findings and policy engagement experiences, and brought forward a new regional agenda that brings visibility to rural women’s rights.

A statement of joint recommendations was adopted by consensus by the participants to bring transformative change in the lives of women agricultural workers. This joint statement encapsulates a set of action recommendations that focus on policy, legal and programmatic changes to recognize, protect and promote the rights of women agricultural workers. It mirrors the voice of rural women who are excluded from many policy dialogues and lays out a range of provisions that women should receive from governments.

Legal recognition of women agricultural workers needs to be seen as a starting point, leading to ensuring that rights to equal and living wages, and the provision of social protection in the form of pensions, housing, childcare, free and quality healthcare including sexual reproductive health, education and maternity entitlements are established and enforced. The need to mobilise women agricultural workers and provide them a platform for discussion and articulation of their needs and demands, emerged as a strong component of the joint statement, given the near-total absence of such platforms, be it unions, associations or other forms of organisation.

Women agricultural workers’ voices need to be amplified across different fora – local, national and international. Policymakers, governments of all tiers, international agencies, local and community based organisations, communities and women agricultural workers themselves have to become a part of this regional agenda for women’s rights and benefits to be realized. The regional roundtable was one step towards recognizing the contribution of women agricultural workers and it ended on a positive and optimistic note. There was plenty of energy and commitment for continuing engagement with the issue.

*This blog was originally written for LANSA with inputs from Haris Gazdar and Nitya Rao

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Deconstruction of #MeToo and the new-age feminist movement

By Sana Naqvi

Hashtag #MeToo
Source: Wikimedia Commons


The feminist movement has been an intrinsic part of progress in Pakistan’s narrative and has evolved over the years. The movement today has more tools at its disposal than the street-based activism of the previous generation of feminists; new platforms have emerged and transformed the way protest and dialogue on gender issues can take place. The #MeToo movement uses social media to amplify women’s voice by carving a space for them to share harrowing encounters of being sexually assaulted or incidents of other forms of sexual harassment. One of the criticisms leveled against the movement is that due process is not followed and has resulted in creating binaries between social media and legal recourse. It is important to look at both separately, but also together, and try to come up with a nuanced way forward.

Social media has transformed the activism landscape globally and has allowed women to speak about their injustices, reach out to others who might feel as immobile, and provide an avenue that has for the most part not been available to many. Facilitating women to find solace in comfortable spaces is perhaps social media’s greatest achievement.

Misunderstanding about the #MeToo movement has led to it being criticized as a ‘witch hunt’, leading to reservations against it. The movement is about a certain kind of accountability, which requires men to take responsibility for their actions and exercise caution about improper conduct. With women no longer remaining silent about their experiences, they are trying to transform the discourse by changing the norms around how men treat women and normalizing conversation on sexual harassment, which is scarce, if at all.

In situations where harassment is involved, it is difficult to conceptualize what ‘justice’ would look like, as a result it becomes increasingly complicated to have a universal set of rules. Critics are wary of using social media, and propagate the use of legal recourse. In a country like Pakistan, where legal systems have failed women multiple times, is this the best course of action?

The Protection against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, passed in 2010 requires each organization to have an inquiry committee set up to listen to complaints that employees might have, setting out ‘major’ and ‘minor’ penalties. Complaints can also be reported to the federal or provincial ombudsman specially appointed to handle harassment cases. To complicate this relatively well-drafted law which includes an all-encompassing definition of what harassment is, the Sindh ombudsmen is a male; however, few women would be comfortable speaking to a man about their experience. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa do not even have ombudsmen, so who do women reach out to when the legislative mechanism (the ombudsman) is absent? In this context if women resort to social media, is it still fair to demonize them for it?

In our work in the Action for Empowerment and Accountability Programme, we have studied politics as an arena in which there is widespread harassment. Legislators have their personal character and physical safety vulnerable to attack; female politicians are frequently verbally harassed during rallies, in talk shows and even on the floor of the parliament, which is routinely covered by national media. Examples include Shireen Mazari being called a tractor trolley, Amir Liaqat’s inappropriate comments about Sherry Rehman and a religious cleric assassinating Punjab Minister for Social Welfare Zille Huma in 2007 for not wearing ‘Muslim clothing’. The National Assembly still has no committee specifically for parliamentarians to hear complaints of harassment. As incidents have become public, some women politicians with voice and agency occasionally take issue and raise objections on the floor of the house.

Strong action across the board is required to make the political arena safe for all women because when we achieve this, women in important positions will be able to ensure that protective laws against women are tabled, passed and implemented. Our research has shown that protection for women politicians is largely missing, and this issue is not class specific nor is it party specific - it’s gender-specific.

Women who speak up are labelled as doing it for attention, fame, vengeance and money, but the movement’s real aim is to create support systems for victims and also help move forward from the trauma. One way to achieve this is the concept of ‘restorative justice’ which ‘emphasizes accountability and making amends, seeks to avoid sentencing, instead focusing on bringing victims and offenders together to understand the magnitude of the harm done, the ways in which healing can be achieved’. Constructive paths like this can only be achieved when there is open discussion about how to deal with harassment; dialogue not punishment can help curtail future behaviors.

The #MeToo movement raises important questions, a pertinent one being why frameworks to deal with sexual harassment are so weak. Even though we have a sexual harassment law passed almost a decade ago, it has taken the #MeToo movement in 2018 to push for more widespread sexual harassment committees at workplaces and a review of the Ombudsmen’s effectiveness. It is important for those who are skeptical of the #MeToo movement to recognize that it has alerted the public of the lack of implementation of the existing laws, forcing women to take to social media. This movement is crucial to give agency to women, and the way forward is if legal recourse and social media stop being seen as antithetical to one another.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

The chickens and eggs dilemma: can poultry transfers reduce poverty?


By Kabeer Dawani and Ayesha Mysorewala



Photo credit: Pixabay.com



Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent announcement to give chickens to women in rural areas, as part of a poverty alleviation strategy, has received a lot of flak.

Khan identified two benefits of this asset transfer programme: nutritious food for eating and more chickens and eggs to sell.

Although the prime minister claimed the programme has been tested, we are not aware of publicly available results from any evaluation of such a pilot in Pakistan. Moreover, scale-ups of successful pilots often disappoint in their results.

There has been one major study in Pakistan on a graduation strategy for the ultra-poor to transition to a higher standard of living. Its results highlight two factors that are important to consider.

First, when given the choice of a productive asset, only 10 per cent of the sample opted for chickens, with the majority choosing goats. This implies that poultry is seen as a relatively low priority asset by the population.

Second, the intervention tested in this study had a gamut of additional components, including technical skills training, health and financial support and monitoring. All of these are absent from Khan's proposal and so any conclusions about the success of this study cannot be drawn for our context.

Writing for Dawn.com, Myrah Nerine Butt nicely pointed out the potential drawbacks for women from such a programme. In a similar spirit of thoughtful engagement and building on her article, we will argue using theory and evidence that the economic, gender and nutritional impacts of such a programme are limited at best and negative at worst.

The economics does not add up

It appears that the government has already initiated the programme, with rural women in Rawalpindi being the first to receive the chickens.

Each woman is being given one unit, which is made up of five chickens, with a total of 2.5 million units to be handed out across the Rawalpindi division at a cost of Rs 1,200 per unit. This has two implications.

First, if a similar proportion is applied to the rest of Pakistan, this has a budgetary implication of approximately Rs 78 billion for the nearly 65 million rural women across Pakistan.

This is no trivial amount, especially given the budget deficit. In fact, it is almost exactly the annual revenue collection from taxes on mobile prepaid cards alone that the Federal Board of Revenue stands to lose due to the previous government's tax reforms.

The second issue that is apparent from the distribution in Rawalpindi is that, all of a sudden, there will be a lot of households within close vicinity of each other in possession of the chickens.

This means that supply of chickens and eggs will increase significantly, making any commercial sales of surplus chickens and eggs difficult; basic economic theory suggests that prices will be driven down because of the drastically increased supply, making any profits minimal.

Rural areas are usually not well connected to markets in the first place and this lack of outlet will be a problem once localised markets become saturated. There may also be a negative spillover of this — existing suppliers of poultry could also see their profits slashed.

In addition, there are significant costs for households associated with handing them chickens. These include higher use of cooking fuel to cook desi chickens because they take longer to cook; land is needed for rearing poultry, which poor households do not necessarily possess; and finally, the opportunity cost of time for women, which is an issue we return to below.

These will of course remain hypotheses until tested, but nevertheless are based on observations from field work in rural areas.

All these issues identified above make it unlikely for an asset transfer programme comprising chickens to have any impact on income poverty.

Nutrition and health

At first glance, giving households greater access to protein-rich foods may appear to be good, especially with undernutrition being a major issue in Pakistan; the latest Demographic Health Survey shows that 41pc of rural children are stunted.

More chickens and eggs to consume, then, may be good, but it is important to point out a number of caveats to this.

Globally, there is a lack of consensus and consistent evidence on whether livestock and poultry transfers can decrease stunting. It is agreed, however, that the success of the interventions is conditional on certain factors such as where households keep the animals and how well connected they are to markets.

In some cases, there has in fact been a negative impact of livestock and poultry ownership on nutrition due to diarrhea and other diseases related to proximity to livestock.

Poultry fecal waste also leads to increased risks of environmental enteropathy, a serious condition which limits the absorption of nutrients among children.

On this, a recent World Bank report on Pakistan has argued that we need to focus on improving sanitation, especially in rural areas, to make progress on stunting.

There may be a strong argument for giving chickens and other small livestock to women, given that women’s control of assets and resources in the household is associated with better nutrition. Research from the LANSA project shows that care of small livestock and poultry is usually the domain of the woman. We also found that income from the sale of products and animals themselves is rarely controlled by the woman.

Given this, if transfers of more animals do not improve women’s access to resources and say over how their products are used, it may well increase their time burdens. This reduces time spent on rest and care of children, which is detrimental to their own health and that of their children.

Evidence from a previous study on a livestock and poultry intervention did, in fact, show no significant improvements in women’s say in household decisions in Pakistan.

In sum, there is no guarantee that giving chickens to households will improve health and nutritional outcomes.

In fact, there exists a possibility that without checks on sanitation and women’s time poverty, providing chickens may make things worse.

What about poverty alleviation?

Any poverty alleviation strategy must aspire to sustainable and broad based development.

Redistribution programmes, which transfer cash (such as the Benazir Income Support Programme) and assets (such as chickens), can serve the important purpose of protecting the poor from shocks and mitigating their risks.

These are valuable goals in and of themselves; however, what they do not do is provide a basis for structural reform to alleviate poverty significantly.

If the prime minister is serious about alleviating poverty, he must focus on halting and even reversing Pakistan’s premature de-industrialisation.

It is the manufacturing sector which has the capability of providing high-productivity and high-wage jobs, and which has globally led to poverty alleviation and inter-generational social mobility.

In the midst of a narrowing manufacturing base, however, hopes for broad-based development remain bleak.
*This blog was originally published in Dawn.com's blogs section.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Women’s Mobility and Labor Force Participation in Karachi: Some Preliminary Observations

By Natasha Ansari


Women working in a garment factory in Korangi's industrial area
Photo credit: Waseem Gazdar


Pakistan has the lowest female labor-force participation rates in South Asia[1] and urban areas perform especially poorly[2]. Distinct patriarchal norms interlinked with migrant status can affect women’s autonomy and thus labor-force participation in different ways. Recently the Collective for Social Science Research conducted fieldwork for the IGC supported project ‘Women's Mobility, Agency and Labour-Force Participation in the Mega-city of Karachi’ at three ethnically purposive sites. Many female respondents mentioned instances, relative to patriarchal norms and structures of their communities, which informed their ability to work in the city. In this blog, we attempt to present a current snapshot of some of the diversity of women’s experiences with regards to labor force participation in relation to their community norms and migrant status in Karachi.

Lyari

Lyari is considered one of the oldest neighborhoods in Karachi, and pre-dominantly consists of Baloch and Katchi populations that have long assimilated here. Most young Baloch and Katchi women we interviewed preferred to work and complete their education.[3] Two-thirds of younger women have at least completed Intermediate exams and nearly all aspired to hold undergraduate degrees if they didn’t already. In terms of mobility, our female Balochi respondents within Lyari did not report restrictions on mobility from patriarchal figures in the household or street harassment by strangers to the same degree as in other sites where this study was conducted. One respondent who works as a teacher noted that her community respected her a lot for her job, and that when she is walking to work, men actively move out of her way. The extent of mobility and the relative lack of restrictions described by some of the Balochi women around issues of respectability and safety, strictly in a comparative sense with other localities in Karachi, have been surprising for us to learn and are indicative of norms improving overtime, in conjunction with length of the migration period.

In terms of hindrance to employment, an issue most women noted was labor-market discrimination pertaining to ethnicity rather than gender. Nearly all of our respondents complained about rampant racism in the rest of the city against Lyari residents and its adverse effects on their employability. Being Baloch in addition to being a Lyari resident compounded the problem more so.

Baldia

Baldia was selected as a site because it consists of predominantly Pashtun migrants. For women, earning was considered disgraceful and dishonorable because it implied that the household was running on the woman’s income instead of the man’s and the sense of emasculation is a major cause of disrepute for the men in the community. Despite income issues, prospects of poverty still do not seem to mobilize women or let men from their household to relent and let them work or earn. The only instances women resorted to working were in the face of extreme destitution as a result of the absence of a male patriarchal figure and bread-winner in the household, at the expense of disrepute in the community. Older women also hardly held jobs – not even cleaning jobs in households, unlike the other two sites we investigated. Similarly, in terms of education households frequently stopped their daughter’s education after primary school or once they reached puberty, and cited ‘azaad mahol’ (permissive environment), which points towards future potential constraints to labor-force participation.

Korangi

Korangi was chosen due to the ethnically heterogeneous nature of the community and the prevalence of Urdu-speaking and Sindhi populations in the area.

In terms of employment, similar to Lyari, the long assimilated Urdu-speaking and Sindhi women did low-paying private school teaching jobs. If they had income issues they took up better paying, but far more demanding, company or factory jobs. Working in the nearby garment factories was commonly reported by some of the respondents. Older uneducated women usually took up work as cleaners in other households but this was not considered respectful work by them. In contrast, newer Sindhi migrant women were not allowed to work at all, especially if they were young, due to anxieties pertaining to the strangeness of the new and unfamiliar city.

Conclusion

There is indication that patriarchal arrangements relative to migrant status and cultural notions of respectability, determine the extent of women’s participation in the labor market. The relegation of women’s labor force participation only to certain acceptable occupations or by keeping women at home entirely, unquestioningly indicate that gender norms play a role in shaping women’s labor force participation in Pakistan. In an urban context, mobility is complicated by distinct norms pertaining to patriarchy within their communities, geographic and spatial anxieties due to migrant status, and histories of conflict within the city. Our preliminary findings suggest a differentiated employment strategy concerning women’s labor-force participation, underpinned by social-policy that is context-specific to communities within Karachi is needed.


[1] 57 percent in Bangladesh (ILO 2014), 29 percent in India (ILO 2014), and 22 percent in Pakistan (PLFPS 2015)

[2] 10 percent for urban areas in Pakistan in 2015 (PLFPS 2015) , as compared to 15.5 percent for urban areas in India in 2011 (ILO 2014) and 14.7 percent for Bangladesh in 2016 (QLFS 2017)

[3] The jobs many women hold are low-paying teaching jobs at local private schools because they are a walking distance from their homes, which indicates that many young women do struggle with family restrictions on their mobility

References

Chaudhary, R., & Verick, S. (2014). Female labor force participation in India and beyond ILO Asia-Pacific Working Paper Series: International Labour Organization.

Labor Force Survey 2014-15. (2015): Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

Quarterly Labor Force Survey 2015-16. (2017): Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.


*This blog was originally published in "Pakistan's Growth Story