Female garment workers in Pakistan

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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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