Pakistan is the sixth most populated country in the world, and at least two in five Pakistanis will live in urban areas by 2020. But, as in the rest of South Asia, rapid urbanization in Pakistan is “messy” and hidden. A large-scale informal economy and poor public service delivery is dampening the potential productivity benefits of agglomeration.

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Underdeveloped and unenforced work regulations make women disproportionately more susceptible to exploitive working conditions. They are poorly compensated and forced to work in hazardous circumstances without proper social or legal protections. Beyond the ambit of taxation, they are seldom considered productive economic agents and are relegated as secondary contributors to the economy.

In particular, women lack access to public transportation, mainly because of fear of violent street crime and abuse. This directly hinders their ability to access jobs and reduces earning potential. A disproportionate share of women’s commuting in Lahore is on foot, which hampers access to jobs.

We propose three strategies for women in the informal economy to more effectively advocate for improved access to services and better bargain for collective interests:

Support worker organizations: community involvement and adequate leadership is vital to ensure the accountability of local government and elected representatives.

Increase connectivity and bargaining capabilities: Workers who regularly leave their homes, such as domestic workers, also face substantial difficulties linked to lower-than-average educational attainment...The use of smartphones and social media could increase connectivity and raise awareness regarding sexual harassment in public spaces.

Improve access to national identification documents: Lack of national identification documents is a major barrier in informal female workers’ ability to improve their livelihood. The emerging home-based and domestic worker rights movement in Pakistan provides an opportunity to create stronger informal worker associations.

Following a decade-long gap, the recent reinstatement of local governments is a great opportunity to introduce these much-needed reforms. It’s time for local political leaders to see economic growth and the social protection of informal workers as policy objectives that go hand-in-hand.

Read the source article at Urban Institute

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