Women Labour Force Participation, Social Protection and Labour Laws
An Overview of Pakistan
The Context:LabourForce Participation Trends in Pakistan
Overall Labourforce participation rates in the last ten years:1999-2000 – 50.4%2006-2007 – 52.5%2010 – 2011 - 53.4%Gender wise labour force participation rates:Males 2010 – 2011 – 81.9%Females 2010 – 2011 - 24.4%
Theemployment to population ratiohas steadily increased over the last ten years from 46.8% in 1999 – 2000 to 50.4% in 2010 to 2011;This is especially applicable in case of women increasing from 13.7% in 1999 – 2000 to 22.2% in 2010 – 2011;But, men seem to benefit more from improvement in the labour market.In 2010-2011, the share of men with a wage and salaried job was at 41.2% almost double that of females at 21.6%.
Roughly six out of ten employed people in Pakistan (61.6 percent) in 2010-2011 were considered to be vulnerable, meaning “at risk of lacking decentwork”;The large share of female vulnerability (78.3 percent) needs specialattention;Pakistan has seen very low labour productivity over the last decade. Inaddition the relatively low growth in labour productivity has not gone hand inhand with the increasing labour force and employment growth;Most new labour market entrants are taking onlow-productivity, poorly remunerated work.
Despite recent gains in terms of employment and unemployment, the reviewed labourmarket indicators highlight the gender gap:Women continue to be underutilized in theeconomy and labour market as reflected in their overall participation, as well as in thedistributions in terms of economic sector and status groups;In line with the trendsince 1999-2000, the proportion of women in the status group of wage and salariedworkers decreased in the recent survey years. Less than a quarter of all women arenow in a salaried position, as compared to a third at the beginning of the decade.
The New MDG Targets
According toILO’s recent labour market framework,“There is no single solution to wiping out poverty. But“full and productiveemployment and decent work for all, including women and young persons”– thepromotion of rights, employment, social protection and dialogue- needs to be the heartof successful policies to get there.”
The endorsement of decent work has also become a top priority of theGovernment of Pakistan as reflected in a number of national policy documents, some of which are:The Medium Term Development Framework (MTDF) for 2005-2010,Documents related to employment creation (Labour and Employment Policies),Poverty reduction (Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers) and;Human resourcedevelopment (Skilling Pakistan)
Women’s Labour Rights and Pakistan’s Constitution
Pakistan’s Constitutionand labor laws provide equal opportunities regardless of gender, caste or creed as well as laws permeating regulations and benefits covering minimum wages, social security, health coverage and old agebenefits;TheConstitution of 1973, in its Principles of Policy section, declares that “steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life” (Article34);Article37 (e) of the Constitution says, “The State shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex and for maternity benefits for women in employment.”
Overview of Labour Laws
Pakistan’s labour laws have been inherited from India although adjusted with time according to needs;Pakistan has more than 70 laws related to labour issues.Labouris regarded as a ‘concurrent subject’, which means that it is the responsibility of both Federal and ProvincialGovernments;Foruniformity, laws are enacted by the Federal Government, stipulating that Provincial Governmentsmakerules and regulations according to the prevailing conditions or requirements of a Province.
Specific laws and by-laws for various terms of employment;Forexample contract of employment whereby establishing a relationship between the employer and employee through a contract ofemployment;TheOrdinance applies to all industrial and commercial establishments throughout the country employing 20 or more workers and provides for security ofemployment;Incase of informal or casual workers like domestic workers, farm workers or daily wagers, labour contracts are undocumented and can be enforced through the courts on the basis of oral evidence or past practices.
Servicesof a permanent worker cannot be terminated unless other than misconduct without one month’s notice or wages in lieu thereof has been furnished by the employer or by the worker if he or she chooses to leave his or her service.Thelaw also covers working time and rest time (Factories Act 1934), minimum age of the worker (Article 11(3)), paid leave provision (Factories Act 1934), maternity leave and maternity protection (Article 37).
Women and Labour Laws
There are no women specific labour laws except the right to a maternity leave;There is also a law that women and children in the labour force have the right to less work hours;Recently, the government has enacted a new law to make provisions for protection of women against harassment at the workplace.
According to the Pakistan Labour Laws health is a human rights issue thus the responsibility of the State. Certain areas of RH are included in the Labour Laws, but there is no awareness amongst the employers or the workers about these provisions in thelaw;There are no provisions in the law for post-delivery conditions, like breast feeding mothers. Mothers with small children have no concessions or any spaces provided as baby crèches as a result women with young children are forced to abandon theirwork;Women of reproductive ages are discriminated against by employers who fear that they will not be able to deliver as much as required;
Enforcementand compliance issues especially at the provinciallevel;Noaccountability mechanisms to keep a check on the enforcement of laws at any level and neither does it seem to be a priority at the Statelevel;
The existing labour laws need to be reviewed and repealed to address specific needs of women workers. This should not only apply to just maternity leaves but a more holistic view of the women’s reproductive needs as a recognized and integral part of all labour laws considering women have equal rights according to the Country’s Constitution;Gender sensitization across board is essential to break the patriarchal mindset starting from inclusion of RH and gender issues in the school curriculums;There is a definite need to factor in the informal sector which constitutes majority of the labour force of the country including women in the legal framework;The Government needs to regulate and monitor the private sector which at present is out of the country legal loop;Cultural and social context needs to be kept in mind while formulating policies and laws, which can even varyregionally;