This article analyses the position of women within the labour market with special reference to the women in Pakistan. As their sisters in other parts of the world, Pakistani women have worked constantly and continuously.

They worked as mothers, household labourers and as social production workers. But unfortunately the economic and social values of their work have frequently been under-recorded and underestimated. Therefore, in order to understand the factors, which determine when and where women are employed, one has to study the changing pattern of employment of men as well as women in our rural economy. Now we analyze that what has been the position and participation rate of women in labour market over the years in Pakistan

Over the last decade agricultural and rural populations in the developing world have become more extensively and directly affected by several new processes in a rapidly changing global context. Globalization and liberalization of trade have brought about a greater integration of rural economies in both national and world markets. Rural populations are being confronted with more dynamic and, therefore, less predictable market-dominated conditions of production. The responses of rural populations to uncertainties and risks are also becoming less predictable but increasingly more important as an economic factor.

In keeping with the rapid transformation occurring in global markets, markets for agricultural labour are likewise experiencing changes and becoming more dynamic. Because of production constraints, many farmers are now migrating to the cities to work in an attempt to maximize their access to scarce resources and improve the lives of their families. For those who stay behind, access to cash and a wage income is becoming as critical as access to land (ECOSOC, 1999).


Demand for food: Demographic projections by the United Nations , supported by findings of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), suggest that, over the next two decades, rural populations will continue to exceed urban populations in the developing countries. Moreover, food needs in the developing world could double over the next three decades (World Bank, 1999). Since economic growth in the developing countries is correlated with agricultural growth (FAO, 1998), the pressure on agriculture to increase its output, and hence its productivity, will be enormous in the years to come. Production on existing land will almost have to double in order to provide the required food supply sustainably (World Bank, 1999).

Contributory factors in the intensification and increase of agricultural productivity are thus likely to be research and the organization of research-supporting databases; new technology; the development of rural human resources, including the agricultural labour force (to be achieved through the targeting of small and medium-scale farming operations); and the use of public environments as a forum for dialogue on policy issues. Clearly, all these developments will destabilize the existing division of labour in rural areas and will have important consequences for gender relations at the sub-national and national levels.

Recent studies have shown that more varied employment becomes available as workers move out of agriculture and subsistence production and into paid employment in the expanding manufacturing and service sectors (Mehra and Gammage, 1999). However, this trend does not necessarily reflect healthy growth in the agricultural sector. Sooner or later, planners will be faced with the question of how best to invest in and maximize the productivity of the remaining human resources.

Gender segregation: There seem to be important gender deviations in the general trend of labour moving out of agriculture. A slightly increasing feminization of the agricultural labour force in most developing countries may reflect the fact that women are lagging behind men and abandoning agriculture at a slower rate (Mehra and Gammage, 1999). Furthermore, women tend to work in low-productivity jobs more often than men, especially those who remain in the agricultural sector.

Viewing workers as an important resource for agricultural development is economically advantageous. Efficiency losses related to sex segregation in agricultural activities may result in a reduction of total output as a consequence of labour force misallocation and the underutilization of existing gender-specific skills (such as women’s traditional expertise in plant genetic resource management), or even loss of skills.

Experts in estimating labour force efficiency have suggested that reducing labour force segregation by sex is not only an issue of redistributing justice, but can also have beneficial effects for both men and women in terms of welfare improvement. From this perspective, policy interventions to improve women’s productivity may involve more investment in women as agricultural producers and a reorganization of the gender-based division of labour.

Labour supply: Labour supply is dependent on the labour force participation rate, defined as ratio of population seeking gainful employment to working age population. According to labour force survey, working age population is 10 years or more and gainful profit means not only work for pay or profit but also unpaid help from the members of family.

Despite rapid development in female education, female labour participation and health care continue to lag behind men in most of the fields of life. Women who comprise almost half of the population are extremely vulnerable, especially in developing countries. Pakistani women like in many developing countries lag behind men because of social, cultural and traditional norms. Low literacy rate high birth rate, poor health, low life expectancy and non-recognition of their work within the family are some of the common characteristics of women in Pakistan as well as in other developing countries. It is unfortunate that individuals apparently similar with respect to productivity, receive widely different earnings on the basis of non-economic criteria like sex, which raises serious questions of equity, efficiency and human rights.

Labour market conditions are usually unfavourable for the female labour force (FLF) in many developing countries. Conditions in high paying professions are usually not favourable for women as they are mostly absorbed in traditional sectors like agriculture and low paid occupations pertaining to petty services. Their contribution towards economic development is not duly acknowledged and moreover accurate data pertaining to FLF and their economic contribution is not available in developing countries.

In the developing world as a whole, agriculture accounted for about 63 percent of total female employment in 1997 and is still the most important sector for female employment in Asia. At the same time, the share of women’s work in the informal sector, both urban and rural, remains high. Informal occupations provide the livelihood (paid or otherwise) of more than 80 percent of women in low-income countries and 40 percent of those in middle-income countries. These countries together account for 85 per cent of the world’s population. However, this work remains largely unrecognized.

Social dimension: With globalization, rural planners face the challenge of how to account for (and rely on) the indirect effects of social factors on economic processes. For example, how can low-income countries afford to consider cash crop growth (involving expensive infrastructure) as a developmental priority if large rural populations remain constrained by low labour productivity in subsistence farming and thus are candidates for urban unemployment in the near future? Indeed, they (primarily women) cultivate the food crops necessary for food security but, with no additional income, they cannot participate directly in development or derive benefits from it.

How can the two development processes—industrial cash crop expansion and subsistence farming — be combined without hindering one another? This may require the targeting of subsistence farming populations with specific programmes for sustainability and growth (such as microenterprise development) or learning how to assess the hidden work involved in coping strategies and the subsequent returns that are used informally by farmers.

As far as women are concerned, structural adjustment programmes have brought additional “pull-back” forces. A recent report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on the advancement of rural women stresses that the globalization and liberalization of trade may bring more difficulties than returns for rural women because of the reduction of international aid and, correspondingly, diminishing national social budgets in the poorest countries of the world (ECOSOC, 1999). Capital disinvestment from the social sphere may have affected the working lives of women by adding additional constraints deriving from their household roles.

In development planning, it is of crucial importance to define the target population (by sex, age, sector of agricultural production and type of occupation/work) in view of a specific development objective. However, this will be impossible if rural planners continue to base their decisions mainly on data relating to physical inputs and outputs, while ignoring the perspective of human resources: the human labour input and the social dimensions of agriculture.


Saad Ur Rehman Saadi
Saad Ur Rehman Saadi

My name is Saad ur Rehman, and I hold a M.Sc (Hons.) in Agronomy and MA in Journalism. I am currently serving as an Agriculture Officer in the Agriculture Extension Department. I have previously worked with Zarai Tarqiati Bank as an MCO. With my education in agriculture and journalism, I am able to effectively communicate issues that affect farmers' daily lives. In recognition of my community and literary services, I was awarded a gold medal by the government.

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