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Unpaid care giving hampering female input in labor force

Among the various reasons identified on global level for removing gender disparity with regard to education and female participation in labor force it is the total responsibility inflicted on women and girls for care giving at household level. This involves child care as well as special care giving for disabled and elderly members of the family. This gives them less time for education, involvement in paid work and other economic activities. They are even devoid of leisure and their constitutional right for political participation.

This particular household environment common with developing countries of South East Asia including Pakistan limits engagement of women in market activities and limits their role for earning livelihood through informal economy being home-based worker or doing low paid jobs. In this regard it is incumbent on legislatures of these countries to ensure decent work and addressing vagaries of unpaid family care work through social safety nets intervention backed by government financial support for providing working mothers maternity benefits and accessible child care services. In some of the European countries tax incentives have been allowed to working couples. Instead of taxing income of both husband and wife only husband’s income is taxed.

At global level some sustainable measures have been taken to address the issue of unpaid care giving by female members of the family who are barred from getting education and also denied the right to get involved in economic activity without undermining their capability and working expertise.

International Centre for Research on women in collaboration with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have conducted a number of research studies to explore how investing in care services and reducing care burden on females of a family can boost up female labor force participation both in developing and emerging economies. Major focus of this joint venture is to explore whether and how the private sector identifies and addresses care needs of the dependent children and elderly members of the families of the female work force, which worldwide is considered the responsibility of adult female members (potential labor force) of the family.

Aim of EBRD is to increase women work force participation, skills and entrepreneurial opportunities and access to vital infrastructure services specially in under developed regions. It was revealed to EBRD during the survey of Egypt, Jordon, certain central Asian states and Turkey that private sector entity failing to resolve care needs of it’s employees effects its ability to recruit, retain and promote women. It was also found that gender gap relating to deployment of labor force largely depends on paid and unpaid work and is closely relates to social norms and customs as they in turn relate to the issue of care that who performs it and who should perform it in the manner that share of female labor force may increase.

In context of Pakistan due to fast change in socio-economic environment the number of female employees is gradually increasing both in public and public sector entities and besides that government’s endeavor to further increase the share of females in country’s active labor force as an affirmative step to reduce gender inequality, apart from other initiatives, child care facilities are now being given due priority. As such of late (in 2018) Senate of Pakistan has passed the ‘Day Care Bill’ to provide for the facility of day care for the children of employees both in public and private establishments where number of employees is 70 or more. In case of failure of entities to comply with the law some punishments both in monetary terms and imprisonment have been specified.

 

Besides above, Pakistan government needs to look into labor and regulation policies. Country’s labor policy must have provision for care services and care related infrastructure to be developed both for children and elderly persons needing care. Besides that subsidies, tax credit and care credits be made available through legislation, which would expeditiously promote child and dependent care arrangements by private sector/NGOs. Further leave policies, family friendly working arrangements like Flexi working hours, and promoting education and health care on priority basis and most importantly devising budgetary policies to make fiscal space for care provision are other needed initiatives to be taken by the government to boost up female participation in all economic activities.

It is unfortunate that despite ruling of Pakistan’s Senate assembly of 2018 for providing day care facilities by public and private sector organizations to their female staff nothing tangible has come out of it. Even federal budget for current fiscal year does not have any allocations for this purpose what to speak of implementation of order by private sector entities!

According to EBRD ‘s research study conducted in Turkey where both public and private sector entities have due focus on providing child care facilities to their employees. As a sample case of an average size textile firm it was found that total yearly expenditures incurred on child care for their female employees were around $258000/- and same year company saved more than $800000/- as a result of lower female employees turnover.

Since EBRD operates in quite a number of countries that do not have investment in child care facilities for their employees, Pakistan government need to approach not only EBRD, but also other such agencies for funding this program which initially be introduced at public sector entities. In this regard private sector can join hand to fill some of the gaps. By either providing care services for employees or subsidizing access to these services by allowing special allowance as a part of pay package for working mothers.

Despite these sporadic efforts of EBRD and number of NGOs initiatives to promote care related facilities to enhance females share in total work force of a country, it was unanimous outburst on the part of 800 members attending W20 summit of 2018 held at Argentina that without a significant effort made to improve status of women it will take almost two centuries time to achieve equality at work place. W20 is an official G20 engagement group forming transnational net work of women organizations, female entrepreneurs associations and think tanks, which firmly believe that economic empowerment of women is thus fundamental for a prosperous world and essential for sustainable economic growth rate of a country.

The Summit held in Argentina had special focus on the following:

  1. Increasing and improving women participation in labor force by investing in affordable child care and introducing mandatory paid parental leave scheme strengthening equal access to justice.
  2. guaranteeing women financial inclusion by ensuring access to credit and normal financial services and enhancing the share of public procurement contracts to women led businesses by at least 10%.
  3. ensuring women digital inclusion by enhancing their use of digital technologies boosting digital skills and attracting girls and women towards faculties of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM ) and ensuring women participation in development and application of artificial intelligence, essential for their professional and business growth.

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