Female workforce: One of every two women faces opposition from family

One out of every two working women reported facing pressure from within the family, according to a survey of textile industry workers conducted by the Social Policy Development Institute (SPDI).

Preliminary findings of the survey showed that a significant number of women employed in the textile sector lack support from their households and also perceive their occupations as “shameful”.

The findings were revealed on the first day of a two-day workshop organised by the International Labour Organisation as part of its “Gender Equality for Decent Employment” (GE4DE) programme, here on Tuesday. Sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency, GE4DE is a three-year programme that will aim to improve gender equality in three sectors – textiles, the hospitality industry and coastal communities.

Preliminary research on the textile sector, conducted by SPDI, also showed that women encounter a unique host of problems at the workplace. According to the survey, 40 per cent of employers did not hire women as permanent employees while only 24 per cent of employers had maternity leaves for female employees.

“Forty-seven per cent women do not get separate dining areas or bathrooms at work while 45 per cent are not provided conveyance to and from work,” asserted the survey.

ILO programme officer Rabia Razzaque explained that generalisations about gender are based on cultural and traditional perceptions, not scientific facts. She pointed out that female workers often contend against societal perceptions that discourage women from entering the workforce.

Data gathered by SPDI complemented this assertion as 86 per cent of employers surveyed in the textile sector preferred to hire men and 35 per cent employers were against training women for unconventional jobs.

Findings also asserted that women are mostly hired on a contractual basis by employers to make them ineligible for benefits that permanent employees get. To make matters worse, women’s participation in trade and labour unions is also significantly low compared to their male counterparts, limiting their avenues for redress from exploitative practices and harassment.

Participants of the workshop included representatives of non-governmental organisations, employers, the media and government organisations including the labour department and Trade Development Authority of Pakistan.

GE4DE gender adviser Sajila Khan urged participants to form linkages with other stakeholders and play a positive role in helping Pakistani women get greater access to equal employment opportunities and decent working conditions. She also stressed the need to create favourable attitudes towards working women issues.

The programme will also attempt to improve gender expertise in the ministry of labour and within provincial departments of labour.

By: Mobin Rana
The Express Tribune