The Economic Role of Women in Pakistan

Pakistan’s conservative patriarchal society has prevented women from achieving full integration into the government and private sector.

pakistan-women-economicWomen constitute half of the Pakistan’s 190 million population and represent a big part of the labor force. However their vitality and potential has never been fully realized in the past 66 years after independence despite having surpassed their male counterpart in every field of life.

Unlike the past, women play a crucial role serving Pakistan with enthusiasm and commitment by their many contributions as engineers, doctors, journalists, pilots, professors and social workers. Yet they need more freedom to play a greater role in the socioeconomic growth of the country.

Female employment rate in Pakistan is the lowest in the world (4.3 percent) and it is estimated that rural women spend 14 to 16 hours in farming and agriculture. In 2003-2004, the growth rate of women participation was 15.9 percent. The figure increased slightly to 18.9 percent the following year which is marginal compared to the rest of South Asia.

Nearly 65 percent of female doctors do not work after marriage. 80 percent of business graduates sit at home after marriage, and less than 10 percent of educated women are entrepreneurs. Pakistani women’s occupations are usually limited to teaching, customer care, call centers, designing, training and fashion.

Pakistan’s conservative patriarchal society has prevented women from achieving full integration into the government and private sector. A number of hurdles limiting women’s role in the economy include ignorance of opportunity, lack of mobility, inadequate recognition and societal perception of women as lower status.

In order to grow as an economically self-sufficient nation, a comprehensive strategy must be followed to eliminate gender disparity. It is universally acknowledged that no nation can be successful without the support and help of their female counterpart in various fields such as education, health care, small and medium business, textiles, banking, fashion, electronic and print media.

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Pakistan is among the five worst countries of the world regarding women economic cooperation and integration. In economic participation, Pakistani women ranked 126 out of 128 in the world; 123 out of 128 in educational attainment; 121 out of 128 in health; and 43 out of 128 in political empowerment.

Discrimination and social prejudice must end for Pakistan to progress

Full equality must be given to both male and female. Peculiarly enough, today the patriarchal society has forgotten the role played by Hazrat Khadija the first wife of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) in business whose work was not opposed by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) but instead he encouraged her to be a businesswoman. On the other hand, male society will not allow his life partner to equal pay, which takes a step back into the medieval ages mentality.

Our founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, once said in a speech, “no nation can make any progress without the co-operation of its women.”

If Muslim women support their men, as they did in the day of the Prophet of Islam, they can achieve great success. No nation is capable of remaining a strong nation unless its men and women struggle together for the achievement of its goals.

Tariq Hussain writes for the Lahore-based tabloid newspaper, Pakistan Today. He earned a degree in Mass Communication from National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad. Tariq started his career in 2010 by joining a news agency, Infochange News and Feature Networks. Read other articles by Tariq.