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Saher Liaqat

Sehar liaquat has been associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. She has just concluded her fellowship with Hanns Seidel Foundation, Pakistan. Email:[email protected]

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Hilal Her

Womenomics and Pakistan: Analyzing Female Labor Participation in Pakistan’s Economy

June 2024

”When women participate in the economy, everyone benefits…” said the US former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. As the world is transitioning from the fourth to the fifth industrial revolution, women worldwide are making remarkable progress, shifting from the traditional economic sectors such as agriculture, education, health, to steer global and regional knowledge economies.



Pakistan, after seven and a half decades of its inception, still lags far behind in capitalizing on its female population potential in its economic prowess to develop its skilled workforce. While women all over the globe are increasingly appearing as entrepreneurs, tech professionals, innovators, business leaders, and startup founders, approximately the majority of women in Pakistan are only restricted to breadmaking roles and are deprived of their financial autonomy.
In 2013, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, championed the term “Womenomics”, initially coined by Kathy Matsui to endorse gender equality in the labor force. This terminology places women at the forefront of a nation’s economy, viewing them as the pivotal force behind economic success and development. The notion of Womenomics is not merely socially progressive, it also holds immense economic advantages. By advancing gender-equal participation in the economy as per SDG Goal 5: Gender Equality, Pakistan can add US $12 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.
If we look at the current statistics, approximately 44% of Pakistan’s populace comes under the threshold of low-income earning. Amidst political mayhem in Pakistan and the subsequent economic deflation that has pushed Pakistan to the verge of bankruptcy, the country must re-evaluate all the economic drivers and the size of the workforce contributing to it. Although women make up a generous percentage of the total population, standing at nearly 49%, they have a meagre input in the country’s economic growth, with only 21 % of the current workforce, including only 25% of female university degree holders.
Over the years, with only males bearing the brunt of earnings as breadwinners in most middle-income households in Pakistan, a subsistent decline in annual per capita income has been observed. To ameliorate this situation, there is a rising need for gender parity in the economic sectors of Pakistan, where women also contribute to the nation’s economy as a productive labor force. Moreover, in most rural areas of Pakistan, although women participate in agrarian work, it mostly goes unpaid due to its association with household responsibilities. Also, in the business sector, Pakistan is amongst the countries with the lowest number of entrepreneurs globally, with only 8% of women-owned micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
The imparity in women’s participation in Pakistan’s economy is not only a dilemma of gender equality but a socio-economic concern. While women worldwide comprise 38% of the workforce, Pakistan only has 20% of female participation in its economy, one of the lowest in the South Asian region. The International Labor Organization’s Global Wage Report (2018-19) highlighted the gender wage gap between males and females in Pakistan at 34%. Moreover, The Global Gender Gap Index Report (2022) has ranked Pakistan 145 out of 156 nations based on female economic contribution, 143rd rank for women’s health and well-being, 135th for women’s acquirement of education, and 95th for political enfranchisement.
The major barriers to female participation in Pakistan are variable, notably, the lack of conducive policies regarding workplace regulations, access to recognition and economics, safety against harassment and exploitation at the workplace, maternity leave laws, early and forced marriages, discriminatory treatment, lack of leadership opportunities, sanitary issues and unfair wages. Moreover, highly dominant patriarchal mindsets and societal norms in Pakistani society limit females’ mobility due to unsafe work environments restricting them to household obligations and homemaking roles. If these constraints are addressed or minimized by focusing on women’s economic empowerment in Pakistan, it is estimated that Pakistan’s GDP could experience an uplift of 60% by 2025.
Increasing the female contribution in Pakistan’s workforce is essential for fostering economic development and promoting gender parity. Policy interventions should prioritize addressing obstacles such as restricted financial access, insufficient computer literacy, and mobility difficulties. Furthermore, promoting gender equality is crucial for developing the ability to withstand and recover from crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. A range of methods is required to promote inclusivity in growth and development. These strategies should include providing affordable training for women entrepreneurs, expanding job search networks, boosting women’s ability to move around, and promoting women’s political involvement. 
Numerous countries worldwide have implemented female inclusion strategies in their economies. As an illustration, Bangladesh has accomplished notable triumphs in enhancing women’s well-being and stimulating its economy through several efforts. Women directly influence the economy through reductions in maternal mortality rates, greater enrollment of girls in secondary schools, and significant female participation in microcredit initiatives. Bangladesh has experienced substantial growth in female labor force participation and overall economic development by dedicating major resources to women entrepreneurs and establishing a supportive environment for female workforce engagement.
Pakistan can gain valuable insights from Bangladesh’s holistic development strategy, which places significant emphasis on women’s education and healthcare as fundamental foundations. Emphasizing the need for a highly educated and adequately supported female workforce is essential for achieving economic advancement. The agriculture sector in Pakistan, which employs a substantial number of women, offers a promising prospect for innovation and empowerment. Adopting contemporary farming methods and promoting female participation in agricultural businesses can support advancing environment-friendly technologies and improve efficiency, ultimately fostering economic development and gender parity.
In addition, China has also made substantial progress in integrating women into its economy through a comprehensive strategy that includes educational empowerment, policy assistance, economic restructuring, entrepreneurship promotion, urban migration prospects, and social-cultural transformations and leadership advancement. These endeavors have resulted in enhanced gender parity in the labor force, greater educational achievement among women, broader economic prospects in various industries, growing female entrepreneurship, increased presence in leadership positions, and evolving societal perspectives on gender roles, all of which have contributed to a more inclusive and vibrant economy.
One of the notable initiatives working towards women empowerment in Pakistan is Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), an innovative project undertaken by Pakistan to leverage the combined efforts of the armed forces and the bureaucratic structure to promote economic stability and foster prosperity, has great potential for many groups, especially female entrepreneurs, who are increasingly important in the Pakistani economy. This platform was designed to make investment easier and create a favorable business environment in the country.



SIFC is a centralized entity that optimizes investment procedures and offers extensive resources. Female entrepreneurs can greatly profit from the council’s comprehensive data on funding options, regulatory prerequisites, and market insights. By utilizing these resources, firms managed by women may effectively negotiate the intricacies of initiating and expanding operations in Pakistan’s multifaceted economic environment. The main goal of SIFC is to promote and enable investment. Female entrepreneurs can now benefit from increased access to financial assistance through government-backed programs and opportunities for foreign investment. SIFC’s involvement in attracting foreign investors can create new opportunities for women-owned enterprises to obtain the necessary funding for expansion. In addition, the council can promote customized financial instruments designed exclusively for women entrepreneurs, such as micro-loans and venture capital. 
SIFC’s placement within the governmental and bureaucratic framework empowers it to exert influence over the policy-making process. Female entrepreneurs can utilize this opportunity by actively collaborating with SIFC to fight for policies that foster gender inclusiveness in the business ecosystem. This may involve promoting equitable access to resources, providing incentives for women-run companies, and implementing initiatives to remove obstacles to female involvement in different areas. Through active engagement in policy dialogue enabled by SIFC, women entrepreneurs may contribute to developing a more equitable economic framework. 
Education and skill development are essential for achieving entrepreneurial success. SIFC can provide training programs that focus on improving the abilities of women entrepreneurs in various domains, including business administration, online earnings, financial knowledge, and leadership. SIFC can also assist women entrepreneurs in acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in competitive marketplaces by offering them top-notch training and capacity-building programs.
The military’s participation in SIFC provides an additional level of protection and stability, which is critical for business operation. Female entrepreneurs, in particular, may benefit from a stable and safe environment in which their businesses can function without fear of political or societal turmoil. This feeling of security can motivate more women to enter the entrepreneurial field, confident that their investments and endeavors will be safeguarded. 
SIFC offers significant potential for female entrepreneurs in Pakistan. It has the potential to empower women in business through resource access, investment facilitation, networking promotion, policy advocacy, training provision, company showcasing, market expansion, and security assurance. Female entrepreneurs’ active participation and support through forums like SIFC will play a critical role in establishing a bright and inclusive future for Pakistan as it continues to work towards the economic stability and progress.
In order to implement Womenomics in Pakistan, it is crucial to systematically and comprehensively tackle long-standing and newly arising obstacles in the workforce. For Pakistan to fully adopt Womenomics, it is necessary to enact extensive changes targeting institutional and cultural barriers. This will enable women to contribute significantly and fairly to the country’s economy. To tackle the severe economic stagnation and gender inequality in Pakistan, state institutions, international assistance groups, and local leaders must implement women-focused development plans and support women’s economic emancipation.


Sehar liaquat has been associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. She  has just concluded her fellowship with Hanns Seidel Foundation, Pakistan.
Email:[email protected]

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Saher Liaqat

Sehar liaquat has been associated with the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad. She has just concluded her fellowship with Hanns Seidel Foundation, Pakistan. Email:[email protected]

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