Dr Sami Ullah
PAKISTANI women are at the highest level of social, political and economic risk. As per Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Pakistan is ranked on 149 out of 151 countries, which indicates the high-level of risk for sustainability. Even the digits of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) are not very satisfactory, only 22 percent women are participating in labour force, out of which 13 percent are engaged in traditional agriculture sector. There is insignificant participation of women in all the sectors of Pakistan economy, except agriculture. On the other hand, 71 percent women are participating in vulnerable employment, majority is in informal sector and considered as unpaid family workers. Globally, a consensus has developed that no country can prosper until they provide equal opportunities for both genders in all the aspects of life. Even G-7 countries announced that they can only sustain their economies by enhancing women economic empowerment up to 20 percent from the current level.
Women empowerment is the only solution of economic and societal deterioration because when women is socially and economically empowered, her priority is to invest in the health, education and quality of life for the households. Whereas, the priority of male is to invest, save and spend on non-developmental aspects. There are research evidences available and indicates that women economic empowerment lead the society toward sustainable living. The priority of female is to invest in the child development and quality of life indicators. Whereas, male economic empowerment leads toward high consumption, investment, savings and other non-human development charms of life by ignoring the prosperity. Globally, only those countries get prosperity where they have equal opportunities for both males and females. There is dire need to take some state level initiatives for enhancing the women empowerment at all levels. In Pakistan, the GNI per capita (purchasing power parity) for female is only US$ 1450, whereas it is US$ 8100 for male as per United Nations report on human development.
There is also very alarming situation regarding educated females, PBS data shows that as the female university graduates are increasing, there is decline in female labour force participation for the last many years. Secondly, the women participation rate is higher in rural areas, as compared with urban areas, opposing the theory. By disaggregating these statistics, the number of female labour force participation is increasing for very low and very high income groups, whereas this number is decreasing for middle income groups, the major Diaspora of our population. Low income groups are prioritizing for their food and basic needs, the high income groups have no concern with the thought of others, they can manage everything as per their routine. The hidden momentum in this discrimination is observed in the middle income groups, they are dominated and can easily be determined by culture, society, male dominance and other social norms.
Globally, they have very concrete policy decisions for enhancing the supply of labour by lowering the incentives in terms of social security and intrinsic benefits. Pakistan has missed the targeted initiatives for their economic participation and facing the cost in terms of volatility in GDP. The main reason behind this uncertainty is that no policy is based on evidence generated from systematic research. We have designed planet of quality research in almost all the sectors but locked it in the files and libraries. If we use our research based evidence in future decision making, no one can stop us from achieving peace, prosperity and empowerment. It is very important to share here that our women have the potential to contribute in growth, development, society and wellbeing. But they require only safety and security in home by educating their male counterpart, providing inclusive work environment, changing the rigid and outdated social norms and provision of security by launching some sort of market oriented workable decisions.
This is the appropriate time to rethink on the public policy for the deprived sector of women empowerment and take some initiatives for enhancing their empowerment for the sustainability and inclusive development. Currently, the globe is targeting to achieve sustainable development goals for their survival and developing regions can achieve the targets only by creating inclusive policies and working environment for attraction of women to happily participate in the developmental targets of sustainability. Pakistan has the potential to compete globally by activating the second half of deprived portion based on gender. State can introduce some attractive packages for women empowerment by minimizing their vulnerable employment, even by expanding the formal portion of the economy. State should have to rethink on this issue and if they are successful in developing the coping strategy, this will enhance labour force, human development, economic growth, sustainability and rural development. This is very easy channel to take-off the economy toward development by providing only inclusive working culture, and reap the fruits of economic and societal prosperity for the generations to come.
—The writer is Assistant Professor in Economics, University of Gujrat, Pakistan.