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How Do Women Decide to Work in Pakistan?


  • Zareen F. Naqvi

    (World Bank, Islamabad.)

  • Lubna Shahnaz

    (Economics Department at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.)


The incidence of women labour force participation is very low in Pakistan. According to the Labour Force Survey, 1999-2000 female participation rate was merely 14 percent of the total labour force. Even though average annual growth rate of female labour force participation has been increasing slightly in Pakistan; it was 4 percent in 1980-99 and has gone up to 5.1 percent during 1995-98,1 however, this rate is still very low as compared to the other South Asian countries—42 percent in Bangladesh, 41 percent in Nepal, 32 percent in India and Bhutan, 37 percent in Sri Lanka [World Bank (2002)]. This paper is an attempt to identify household related factors that lead to women participation in the economic activities. This issue has been taken up in a number of other studies.2 The innovative aspect of this paper is that it relates women’s decision to participate in economic activities with their empowerment—who makes the decision to participate in the labour force—whether it is the women themselves or others. We would like to state at the very onset that this paper is a first cut to explore the issues of women’s participation in economic activities and their and empowerment. We hope to get feedback in the conference to improve the technical aspects of this paper and explore other aspects of this issue. Some key empirical findings of this paper are that the women economic participation is significantly influenced by factors such as their age, education and marital status. The employment status of the head of the household (generally a male), presence of male member, and children of ages 0–5 are also important variables that significantly affect women’s participation in economic activities. We identified marital status, education level, family size, household’s financial status and area of residence as the main causal factors behind women making their own decisions about paid employment.

Suggested Citation

  • Zareen F. Naqvi & Lubna Shahnaz, 2002. "How Do Women Decide to Work in Pakistan?," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 41(4), pages 495-513.
  • Handle: RePEc:pid:journl:v:41:y:2002:i:4:p:495-513

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Valerie Kozel & Harold Alderman, 1990. "Factors Determining Work Participation and Labour Supply Decisions in Pakistan's Urban Areas," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 29(1), pages 1-18.
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    Cited by:

    1. Parlow, Anton, 2018. "Women's Empowerment, Gendered Institutions and Economic Opportunity: An Investigative Study for Pakistan," MPRA Paper 86367, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Mahpara Begum Sadaquat & Qurra-tul-ain Ali Sheikh, 2011. "Employment situation of women in Pakistan," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 38(2), pages 98-113, January.
    3. Tasnim Khan & Rana Ejaz Ali Khan, 2009. "Urban Informal Sector: How Much Women Are Struggling for Family Survival," The Pakistan Development Review, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, vol. 48(1), pages 67-95.
    4. Toseef Azid & Rana Ejaz Ali Khan & Adnan M.S. Alamasi, 2010. "Labor force participation of married women in Punjab (Pakistan)," International Journal of Social Economics, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 37(8), pages 592-612, July.
    5. Musonera, Abdou & Heshmati, Almas, 2016. "Measuring Women's Empowerment in Rwanda," IZA Discussion Papers 10131, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Faridi, Muhammad Zahir & Chaudhry, Imran Sharif & Anwar, Mumtaz, 2009. "The Socio-Economic and Demographic Determinants of Women Work Participation in Pakistan: Evidence from Bahawalpur District," MPRA Paper 22831, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Muhammad Zahir Faridi & Ayesha Rashid, 2014. "The Correlates of Educated Women’s Labor Force Participation in Pakistan: A Micro-Study," Lahore Journal of Economics, Department of Economics, The Lahore School of Economics, vol. 19(2), pages 155-184, July-Dec.
    8. repec:gss:journl:v:3:y:2018:i:2:p:99-109 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Muhammad Irfan, 2010. "A Review of the Labour Market Research at PIDE 1957-2009," PIDE Books, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, number 2010:1 edited by Rashid Amjad & Aurangzeb A. Hashmi, April.
    10. Parlow, Anton, 2018. "Women's Empowerment, Gendered Institutions and Economic Opportunity: An Investigative Study for Pakistan," MPRA Paper 86331, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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