Editors: Firdous Azim , Maheen Sultan
Author: Ayesha Khan
This chapter offers an analysis of women and paid work with a view to identifying where there are changes underway in this area that may play a role in leading to equitable gender relations in Pakistan in the long term. The discussion is based on existing research on the subject, which comes from a variety of disciplines. Much of the research that will be discussed below is preliminary and based on micro-studies, or on larger quantitative surveys that may have ignored some of the diversity within the country. Women in Pakistan live in a society that is highly stratified according to class, caste, region and cultural variations, all of which have implications for their lives and opportunities. Researchers have already argued that policy-makers ought to take into account the specificities of women’s experiences of gender structures and systems in different parts of the country. This paper will seek to re-emphasise this by pointing out diversity wherever possible. The paper begins with statistical information about trends in women’s labour force participation in the past decades, and then introduces the research pertaining to the significance, cultural values, and implications for gender norms, of women’s work. Purdah is highlighted because it works as a catch-all concept for the regional face of patriarchy. The work done on the impact of paid work on women’s lives is assessed with a view to uncovering where further research may be possible. Government policies and programmes encouraging women’s economic productivity are highlighted and are followed by a discussion on policies of economic liberalization and a context of increasing poverty in recent years have put a double burden on the poorest working women. The paper concludes with another look at the concept of empowerment in the light of these research findings.