Equal Employment Opportunity Laws in Pakistan

Disclaimer: The below information is provided on good faith basis and should be taken as a basic guideline about the equal employment opportunity laws in Pakistan instead of any legal advice. 

Objectives Resolution 1949

The base for the equality of all citizens was provided in the Objectives Resolution which was passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan in March, 1949. This resolution later became a substantive part of the Constitution of Pakistan. This Constituent Assembly framed a Constitution for the sovereign independent State of Pakistan;

  • Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice as enunciated by Islam shall be fully observed;
  • Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;

 1973 Constitution

 The laws related to the equal opportunity further improved in Constitution of 1973.

  • Article 11 of the Constitution prohibits all forms of slavery, forced labor and child labor.
  • Article 17 provides fundamental right to exercise the freedom of association and the right to form unions.
  • Article 18 says every citizen; subject to qualifications can enter a trade, business or profession of his/her choice.
  • The article 25 of the Constitution provides following guidelines for the equality of citizens:
  1. All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law.
  2. There shall be no discrimination on the basis of sex alone.
  3. Nothing in this Article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the protection of women and children.
  • Article 26 says no person otherwise qualified can be discriminated against in the matter of employment on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth (Exceptions: specific services can be reserved for members of either sex if such posts/services require duties which cannot be adequately performed by the members of other sex, e.g. Lady Health Visitor)
  • The article 27 puts complete ban on discrimination on the basis of sex in appointment in “the service in Pakistan”, provided that the performance and functions of the job can be carried out by, and is deemed suitable for, both sexes.
  • Article 32 of the constitution says that special representation shall be given to women in local government institutions (i.e., local bodies).

Furthermore, article 34 states that “steps shall be taken to ensure full participation of women in all spheres of national life”

  • Article 37(e) makes provision for securing just and humane conditions of work, ensuring that children and women are not employed in vocations unsuited to their age or sex, and for maternity benefits for women in employment.
  • Article 38(a) of the constitution commits the State to secure the well-being of the people, irrespective of, inter-alia, their sex by raising their standard of living, by preventing the concentration of wealth and means of production and distribution in the hands of a few to the detriment of general interest and by ensuring equitable adjustment of rights between employers and employees, and landlords and tenants.

Labor Welfare Package 2000

Labor Welfare Package for Workers was announced by federal government on April 30, 2000 in which it was made obligatory for the employers to offer gender equality and affirmative action. This package enforces:

  • Equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value through appropriate legislation.
  • Enhancement of maternity benefits for female mine workers.
  • Safeguards against sexual harassment through appropriate actions.
  • Recruitment of female labor inspectors for enforcement of labor laws on female workers.
  • Increase in percentage of reserved seats of workers and peasants at Union Councils, Tehsil Councils and District Councils in the Devolution of Power Plan.
  • Extension of coverage of laws to agriculture and other informal sectors of economy.

Labor Policy 2002

 The Federal Government introduced new labor policy in 2002, the key points of this labor policy are:

  • Empowering labor courts to order re-instatement of illegally dismissed workers or award reasonable compensation in lieu of re-instatement.
  • This policy also calls for extension and upgradation of vocational and industrial training programs to meet the changes of globalization and avoidance of redundancies. If implemented in true spirit, this is expected to be a right step towards affirmative action and equal employment opportunity.
  • Strengthening bilateralism with least legislative and state intervention. This is expected to result in good employer-employee relationship through the strategy of interdependence by employers and employees and their mutual trust.
  • New laws also promise protection of contractual labor by redefining temporary jobs in accordance with international standards.
  • The policy pledges equal opportunities for all and categorically bans child and bonded labor, and discrimination on the basis of gender, sex, race etc.

Support for Equal Pay

Ministry of Women’s Development has taken the following steps to advance the work for women as well as equal pay for work of equal value:

  • Increasing women’s capacity to earn by increasing women’s access to sources of livelihood, in particular, agriculture and livestock production and promoting equal employment opportunities that accommodate women-oriented work policies for paid work.
  • Improving facilities for the education, training and skills development for women, to enter and re-enter the labor force, including special arrangements, as specified in the draft Labor Policy for the female relatives of workers.
  • Ensuring appropriate legislation, including the following measures:

―      Giving effect to the ILO Convention 100 ratified by Pakistan in 2001 by enacting a law to ensure equal remuneration for men and women for work of equal value.

―      Undertaking measures to make work places conducive for women workers so they can work without fear of discrimination and harassment.

―      Enacting a law and guidelines to provide protection against sexual harassment at the workplace and relief/remedy in cases where it occurs.

  • Providing special courses for women in entrepreneurial skills to assist and engage them to establish their own small-scale enterprises.

Ratified International Instruments

The support for equal employment opportunities further improved when Pakistan signed the following international instruments:

  • ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) (ratified on 24/1/1961)
  • ILO Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100) (ratified on 11/10/2001)
  • UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979 (ratified on 12/3/1996)
  • ILO Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention, 1983 (No. 159) (ratified on 25/10/1994)
  • ILO Underground Work (Women) Convention, 1935 (No. 45) (ratified on 25/3/1938)
  • ILO Underground Work (Women) Convention, 1935 (No. 45) (ratified on 25/3/1938)
  • ILO Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 (No. 87) (ratified on 14/2/1951)
  • ILO Night Work (Women)(Revised) Convention, 1948; and Protocol, 1990 (No. 89) (ratified on 14/2/1951)
  • ILO Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98) (ratified on 26/5/1952)
  • UN Convention on the Political Rights of Women, 1953 (ratified on 7/12/1954)

The other steps taken for the improvement of recruitment environment in Pakistan includes:

  • National Policy and Plan of Action for Elimination of Child Labor (2000)
  • National Policy and Plan of Action for the Abolition of Bonded Labor (2001)
  • Legislations about the provision of 2% quota for special (disabled) people in the employment in all departments, which was enacted by the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981.
  • Endorsement of ILO Conventions 100 and 182.

Comments

Though the legislation for Equal Employment Opportunities in Pakistan has significantly evolved with the passage of time but there is still a huge gap between its implementation. One of the main reasons for this implementation gap is the lack of awareness of these rights among the employees. You will hardly find employees suing employers for the misconduct or injustice during the employment selection process.

The article 25, 26, 27 completely bans the discrimination against in the matter of employment on the basis of race, religion, caste, sex, residence or place of birth. Though there is a portion of employers (mostly multinationals) who have adopted procedures to ensure equal opportunity to some extent but one can easily find the cases of gender biasness where women are not considered equally capable for a particular job. Similarly, minorities and protected group members often face difficulties in getting the jobs of their own choice.

However, Ministry of Women’s Development has taken several steps to advance the work for women as well as equal pay for work of equal value but there is a long way to go until these are actually implements.

To sum up, the government still needs to review whether the very basic right of equality promised in Objectives Resolution of March, 1949 are actually given to public or not.

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