Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Women Employment in Public Sector in Pakistan

In Pakistan, the popular aphorism is that the concentration of women workforce is higher in education and health sectors compared to other sectors such as engineering, telecommunication etc.  Perhaps, women would be working more as teachers, doctors or nurses but at large, proportion of women working at administrative or decision-making posts in education and health departments also present a very dismal picture particularly when the government’s initiative of increasing women’s employment in public sector is concerned.

Women’s meagre participation in the public sector is not specific to one province or locality, but all provincial departments are by large male dominated. In one of the discussion fora in Karachi, I heard Mehtab Akbar Rashidi, former secretary culture, government of Sindh, saying that “out of 28 government departments in Karachi, only two women are working at the decision making level”. Experts quote gender stereo-typing as one main reason for the prevalent gender gap in government offices.

The recently accumulated statistics by the Ministry of Labor and Manpower confirm that a significant gender-gap exists in Pakistan’s public sector. At present, women constitute only 10.7% of the total workforce in the country and their proportion in public sector is even less than 2%.  Another study commissioned by the National Commission on the Status of Women reveals the absence of women from decision-making positions in the public sector. In lieu of the situation, NCSW had recommended the government to allocate a 50% quota for women in all public sector jobs. Nevertheless, NCSW’s recommendation has never been adopted by the government due to a lack of political will.

Later on, the Government of Pakistan, as a pre-condition of availing technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank, introduced the Gender Reform Action Plan with women employment in the public sector as being one of the key reform areas. As per the GRAP policy, the government aims to take measures at both pre and post induction stages in order to engender the entire induction process. Proposed with an intention to encourage more women to join public sector, these measures include:
“Establishment of career development centers for young female graduates; affirmative advertisement of public sector vacancies; reservation of employment quota for women in all public sector jobs; inclusion of at least one woman member on every selection or departmental promotion committee; appointing at least 3 women members on the Federal Services Commission and enforcement of code of ethics to protect women from sexual harassment at workplace and so on and so froth”.

The overall picture of achievements of policy measures to enhance women’s participation in the public sector is still very murky. Recent findings of a research study conducted by the Citizens Commission on Human Development highlights that the GRAP has not achieved its key policy objective of increasing women employment in public sector both at the federal and provincial levels. Instead of the proposed 25% quota a meagre 10% quota has been introduced through a directive from the Establishment Division at the federal level.  While in key departments women friendly infrastructure( rest rooms, toilets, day care centres) has either been up-graded or developed, where found missing.

In case of Punjab, career development centres in four public sector universities have been established and an internship program is underway too. Even though there is no scientific data available on the success of initiatives being taken, an ADB representative from Punjab opined that career development initiatives have no visible impact so far due to delays in implementation.  While in the remaining three provinces (Sindh, Balochistan and Pakhtoon Khawa) the progress is almost negligible due to multiple reasons such as lack of ownership, issues of capacities, inadequate planning and gender partial policy framework.

There is a realization among key government functionaries and parliamentarians about the slow progress in increasing the proportion of women employees in all government offices. For instance, Ms. Tauqir Fatima Bhutto, Minister of Women Development Sindh, in a public debate organized by the CCHD, pronounced that  

“Women development department had conducted an assessment of all departments to check whether women employees make-up at least 10% of total workforce and we find out that women were even less than 2%. The women development department has also apprised the Chief Minister time and again about the progress made so far. All departments have been  requested to send reports specifying percentage of women but the response is very luke- warm. We can not achieve our policy objective without full cooperation of all relevant departments”.

But this realization is not enough for bringing a transformation in our society. What is needed is a change of men’s mindset, who are responsible for policymaking in majority of cases. If this doesn’t happen, then GRAP and its accompanying set of reforms will be reminiscent of all previously envisaged policies, concerning women empowerment and equality, which were only words and no actions. Women rights activists believe that with a large number of women parliamentarians in national and provincial assemblies, this is the right time to make headways to mainstreaming gender in public institutions, process and policies. 

1 comment:

Hashriani said...

I think this is a very well researched and well presented article. If I could I'd share it on facebook but the fundos wouldn't let me :)

Good job rehmat :)