Women continue to face work, family conflict

Speakers urge provinces to formulate and implement inclusive labour policies

Our Correspondent February 08, 2018

ISLAMABAD: After devolution, a comprehensive labour policy is absent from the policy arena of provinces, therefore, it is about time for provinces to expedite the process of formulating inclusive and gender sensitive labour policies, say experts.

Speaking at a seminar titled “Women's Labour Market Participation and Child Care: Reforms for Labour Market Policy Effectiveness,” organised by Sustainable SDPI on Wednesday, experts stressed the need for political engagements to bridge the legislative gap at provincial level and help the legislatures to draft the bill in this regard.

Speaking on the occasion, SDPI’s Joint Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed expressed the concern that even after a gap of three years, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces are unable to draft their respective labour policies. “After the 18th Constitutional Amendment, it is now the responsibility of provincial governments to formulate and implement inclusive labour policies,” he said, adding that the provincial governments also need to ensure compliance with labour right laws as per requirement of the GSP-Plus facility provided by the European Union for duty-free exports to European countries.

Dr Ahmed said that gender-sensitive labour policies are urgently required to increase women’s labour force participation. “Women’s active role in productive activities can also be encouraged through well designed social safety nets that train and financially support women to be vibrant members of the society. This is extremely important for Pakistan as the global gender gap index has placed Pakistan 143 out of 144 countries in 2017," he concluded.

Earlier, Urban Institute Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population, Institute Fellow H Elizabeth Peters, said that the United States is not a favourite country when it comes to work-family and childcare supports and benefits. Peters said that in the US there is a zero paid parental leave available to mothers.

This has resulted in significant reduction of household income of families, especially the single mother living solo, she said and added that on the other side childcare support and benefit is not too much promising. Peters said there is an increase in the cost of childcare in last few years, which is becoming unaffordable for the working parents.

“Lack of access to affordable child care, lack of paid parental leave and other family leaves is forcing people to choose between taking care of their children or a sick family member and losing their job and their health insurance,” she added.

SDPI Project Coordinator Ahad Nazir said that there are better chances of empowering women through social entrepreneurship development than other available options. “Most of the social enterprises are effectively working towards skill development, job creation and counselling especially for women,” he said.

While Pakistan has seen a boom in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in the last few years, only 1% women have been reported as entrepreneurs in the World Bank Group’s Pakistan Development Update-Fall 2017, he maintained.

Nazir said that the major challenges of women entrepreneurs include the conflict between work and family, and financial insecurities. “These challenges can be addressed through effective and operational single windows at SECP, FBR and other federal and provincial public interaction offices, incentivised inclusion of women entrepreneurs in public procurement and promotion of shared responsibilities of care,” he suggested.

Samar Hassan, a social entrepreneur, said that there is a need to rethink women’s labour force participation and childcare policies. “A more responsive policy intervention at national and sub-national levels can improve the outcomes and quality of life of children and families, besides improving productivity of women work force in wage and self-employment”, she said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 8th, 2018.