The gender wage gap exists across a multitude of nations, sectors and professions, disproportionality affecting low-income women. Pakistan is the epicenter of this inequity. According to the Global Wage Report 2018/19 (ILO), women in Pakistan earn 34% less than men on average. The same report also found women in Pakistan constitute 90% of the bottom 1% of wage earners in the country. Below are ways to bridge the gender wage gap in Pakistan.
Increased Access to Education
Half of the women in Pakistan have not attended school and 90% of women do not have a post-secondary education. This education gap is detrimental to the gender wage gap in Pakistan as the pay of women with post-secondary education increases threefold in comparison to women with just primary education.
The Zindagi Trust is working to improve girls’ education in Pakistan on the grassroots level by improving the infrastructure, academic innovation and quality of government schools. It has transformed two schools and thus changed the lives of more than 2,500 young girls who otherwise would have dropped out of primary school.
Decreasing Unpaid Care Work
Unpaid care work and domestic work are non-market, unpaid activities carried out in households, such as care of persons, cooking, cleaning or fetching water. These time commitments are often not quantitative, and therefore, go overlooked. According to McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, unpaid care work globally is worth around $10 trillion a year.
Not only does unpaid care work not compensate women for their work but it is so time-consuming that women do not have the time to focus on gaining skills and pursuing economic opportunities. Gender norms further this structure due to the expectation that women must take care of the home.
One way to ease the impacts of unpaid care work is by reducing hazardous tasks, such as cooking with unsafe fuel sources. Jaan Pakistan is working to reduce open flame cooking in rural Pakistan. It has sold nearly 1,500 units to date and hopes to sell 1 million cookstoves across off-grid Pakistan by 2025.
Increased Representation in STEM Fields
Women currently make up less than 18% of STEM professionals in Pakistan. One can attribute this gap to the literacy rate of women and the societal pressure for women to pursue a more female-dominated field. The literacy rate for women is 47% in comparison to 71% for men, which further exacerbates the gender wage gap in Pakistan. The rate of workplace harassment only adds to the inability of employers to meet the needs of educated and qualified women and deters women from contributing to STEM fields.
According to a report of Pakistan’s National Commissioner of Children and Women, around 93% of Pakistani women had experienced sexual violence and harassment in public spaces or workplaces in their lifetimes. Private sector organizations such as Women Engineer’s Pakistan are working to increase the representation of women in STEM fields by connecting college girls to a network of 1,988 women engineers. These mentorship resources build a community of women in STEM in Pakistan and provide support and encouragement. It has helped more than 4,000 college students.
In order to combat workplace harassment, U.N. Women and the Office of the Ombudsperson KP in Pakistan joined together to effectively implement and monitor current laws to address harassment at the workplace. It has developed a Toolkit on “Understanding Sexual Harassment, Legal Provisions, Roles of Duty Bearers and Rights Holders.” Officially launched on June 25, 2020, the Toolkit “provides a comprehensive resource to train and build the capacity of inquiry committee members and other stakeholders on the law and redressal mechanisms for dispensation of justice to the complainants.”
The gender wage gap in Pakistan exists due to the traditional structures in place, but with the support of local and international nonprofits, there are new solutions and resources to successfully implement them.
– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Wikipedia Commons