The Pakistani Spectator

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Female garment workers in Pakistan

By Ibrahim Mahmood • Nov 19th, 2009 • Category: Features • 3 Comments

A recent survey report on female garment workers in Pakistan suggests that female workers are under represented, discriminated against, have more enlightened attitude and overall show a high level of job satisfaction.
The research report “Current status and prospects of female employment in the apparel industry in Pakistan” by Dr. Ehsan-ul-Haque is sponsored and published by Gen-Prom (Gender Promotion in Garment/Clothing Industry through skills development), a project of UNDP-Pakistan. It is for the first time that such an exhaustive survey of female employment has been undertaken in Pakistan and provides valuable insight into current female employment patterns and practices, their demographic profiles and general attitudes towards women’s employment.

The survey is based on a sample of 150 large, medium and small garment/textile companies based in 3 major textile cities, i.e., Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad. The survey is based on 2140 respondents from workers, supervisors, managers and owners/GM’s cadre out of which 60% were male.

Here are a few interesting conclusions from this study:

Women workers comprise an average of 20% of the workforce in the garment sector. Karachi has the highest proportion of female workers followed by Faisalabad while Lahore came out as the least ‘woman-friendly’ city.

Females represent 20% of non-skilled workers, 22% of skilled workers, 12% of supervisory staff and only 3% of manager cadre which points to lower levels of education and skills as compared to men.

Data suggested that only 60% of the companies issue written appointment letters to their workers while life insurance is only provided to 50% of the employees and only 47% companies have maternity leave facility.

80% of the companies seem to have special facilities for women like separate bathrooms, prayer and rest rooms but in Faisalabad, while 97% companies provide separate prayers areas only 66% provide separate bathrooms. Overall, only 21% of the companies provide day-care facilities for children.

On supervisory level, male employees seem to be getting 24% more in wages as compared to their female counterparts while on worker level this difference is 22%.

Most managers and workers rate women as much productive workers than men. Even male workers agree but with less conviction but generally managers agree that women workers provide better quality, do not waste time, work harder, are more responsible, productive, loyal, honest and punctual than male workers.

The survey points that female workers seem to have enlightened attitude while their male workers/supervisors seem to have to have most conservative attitude. Most male supervisors/workers seem to agree that women of their households should not work. Most respondents also feel that Islamic injunctions do not prescribe female work outside home.

Interestingly, males seem to have a worse opinion of sexual harassment on streets than women themselves.
However, they admit that most of it is in the form of ‘stares’ or ‘male gaze’. Also, both male and female managers believe that working women may find it more difficult to get married.

While 64% of managers are positive about hiring females, 62% of workers/supervisors are not in favor of allowing their immediate female relatives to work in their own organizations.

Managers interested in hiring women suggest unavailability of trained women, lack of transportation and restrictions from households as the key reasons for failing to employ more women. 90% manages are unaware of any government policy for increased participation of women in the industry.

Overall, organizations where managers are more inclined to hire women seem to be larger in size, are based in Karachi, have a more positive future economic outlook and export primarily to EU rather than US.

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3 Responses »

  1. Hi,
    In India also i find that women workers work better, punctual,donot go frequently for tea etc.The main problem they face is Transport from home and back with security. some companies in India provide this and also have creche, seperate toilets and pay less and women prefer this. Most of the women workers find this textile job as very respectable job while most of their husbands are drunkards and are a pain their neck

  2. thanks for your comments johann…what you describe is very similar to our situation…the survey points that lack of transportation is one of the major hurdles to increased participation of women in garment sector.

  3. Hi Ibrahim, very nice article and good to have you back. Representing textile sector from Punjab, the above facts are very close to exact depiction of female work force, even in bed linen export oriented factories they have the same problem.

    Women right were recognized for the first time in Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure and a lot of awareness was made even in Musharaf’s regime but still a lot has to be done, they are half of our population and we got to give them respect, equal employment chances and above all encourage them for higher studies so that they could become part of our prosperity and growth in all sectors apart from Textiles.

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