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KARACHI: Businesses should set a minimum goal of achieving by 2025, one fourth or 25 percent women employees in overall workforce and management roles. This together with visible action on other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are critical for an inclusive economy and robust business growth in Pakistan.

This is one of the key recommendations by the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI), in its position paper on women empowerment titled "Increasing Women's Inclusion in the Pakistan Economy - An OICCI Perspective." The position paper was presented to the Minister for Human Rights, Dr. Shireen Mazari.

OICCI President Irfan Siddique commenting on the key recommendations observed that "OICCI members were extremely concerned to note that Pakistan ranks second-to-last for women globally as per Global Gender Parity Report, and that Pakistani women earn roughly 34 percent less than men." To redress the situation, Irfan added, "OICCI has compiled a set of recommendations for the government to accelerate women's employment and career growth in the country."

The OICCI recommendations on Women Inclusion cover three critical areas: Equal Opportunity for Pakistani Women; Protection Against Workplace Harassment; and Building Inclusive Workspaces.

Giving key elements of the recommendation on "Equal Opportunity for Pakistani Women" Sami Ahmad, Chairman of the OICCI Diversity and Inclusion Subcommittee said that OICCI has urged government to encourage businesses to set a minimum goal of 25 percent women in management roles by 2025, in all key segments for government and non-government organizations/businesses employing more than 50 persons. Other recommendations include to give recognition to at least one female/male leader at the national level to empower women and initiate awards for spotlighting outstanding women business leaders; mandate equal pay for equal work by adopting gender neutral compensation and benefit structures so as to reduce pay gap and discrimination; grant tax credit for organizations having female employment at management level beyond a set threshold , invest in public-private partnerships in education to increase the school enrollment of girls, and set up gender based scholarships for women in top universities.

Recommendations under Protection against workplace harassment suggest that the government should introduce uniformity and ease in Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for cases related to harassment in line with the best practices; review WAHW Act, and broaden its scope to include self-employed persons and others working in the same space, members of the informal and agricultural sector; regardless of whether there is a contractual employment relationship between the parties; provide free legal counsel to women, men and transgender individuals; government mandated sensitization trainings to be conducted by employers/companies in Urdu and English; make public transport safer; educate about childhood harassment; empower women to report harassment and raise awareness amongst men.

Under Building Inclusive Workspaces; the recommendations urge that the government should mandate creation of daycares in workplaces with at least 50 employees; increase federal maternity paid leave from a bare minimum of 16 weeks to 6 months; to govern provisions of maternity and paternity benefits to employees and most importantly revise Factories Act 1934 so as to allow female workers to work post sunset, to enable women to work at factories in both day and night shifts to create greater inclusion and employment opportunities.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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