Female economic participation plummeting in Pakistan

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked Pakistan 153rdout of 156 countries on the gender parity index. The country is at the seventh position among eight countries of South Asia, beating only Afghanistan, a country which is facing a war for the last two decades. Furthermore, Pakistan’s gender gap has even widened 0.7 percent in 2021 as compared to 2020. 

As per the report, Pakistan is one of the worst countries for gender parity as the wage between men and women has widened to 55.6 percent. Only Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan fared worse. The report also placed Pakistan at 152nd in Economic participation and opportunity, 144th in educational attainment, 154 in health and survival and 98 in political empowerment for women. In short, overall a very bleak picture.

However, it is important to note that the pandemic of COVID-19 has seriously affected the progress towards equality between men and women, as per the report. The report further mentioned the crisis has added decades to trajectory towards closing the gender gap. As per the WEF report, the women have lost jobs at a higher rate than men, and had to take on much more of the extra childcare burden in result of closure of schools. The country will face the effects for quite long. 

Highlight this issue, Ipsos Chief Operating Officer NatailieLacey said: “We find that women around the world are now spending (the equivalent of) a full-time job doing childcare.” She further said that this has taken a serious toll and the level of street women has felt is higher than men. 

WEF Managing Director (MD) Saadia Zahidi said: “There has been sort of a rollback to traditional behaviors inside the home, and that then creates a double shift for women who are working.” The ranking of Pakistan has worsened in last one-and-a-half decade. In 2006, the country ranked 112nd in economic participation and opportunity, 37 in political empowerment, 110 in education attainment, 112 in health and survival. 

As per the report: “Few women participate in the labour force (22.6pc) and even fewer are in managerial positions (4.9pc). This means that only 26.7pc and 5.2pc, respectively, of these gaps have been closed so far, translating into very large income disparities between women and men: on average, a Pakistani woman’s income is 16.3pc of a man’s.” 

As mentioned above, Pakistan has only fared better than Afghanistan, a country which has not seen stability and peace for last two decades. This shows how much the condition has deteriorated over the years in Pakistan. 

The current ruling party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) had rejected the similar report from WEF in 2018. PTI’s Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said: “We are not saying that gender inequality doesn’t exist in Pakistan but the extent to which the gender gap is portrayed in the report is incorrect.” However, very interestingly, the same party mentioned WEF Report 2017 in its manifesto while discussing the gender gap in the country. 

Discussing the report, journalist and anchor Shahzeb Khanzadasaid: “Despite such statistics, when Pakistani women come on roads for their rights, the society questions their character, beliefs and social and political links.” 

Experts maintain that the overall picture is very bleak and in last 15 years, the situation has gotten worse, instead of getting better. Critics say no government is ready to work or focus on this issue, reiterating that with every government, the situation has got worsened. Observers say this is not surprising when the top political parties target women of other parties for political gains. 

The WEF ranking comes amid growing reports of men beating their wives over small issues, killing their sisters, daughters, wives and even mothers for ‘honor’. 

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