Laboring Practices: Pakistan

J Grünenfelder, Karin Astrid Siegmann

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This entry examines women’s laboring practices and the status attached to women’s work in twenty-first- century Pakistan. It considers unpaid reproductive and informal work in addition to formal employment. We show that material realities of women’s laboring practices are highly diverse and shaped by power hierarchies related to ideologies of patriarchy, socio-economic class, generation, and religious affiliation. Patriarchal power relations find a strong expression in the spatial segregation of women’s and male’s spheres of circulation (purdah) and the constructions of women as “carers.” They legitimate reproductive work as women’s main responsibility. As a result, they limit girls’ and women’s ability to access education, build social networks, and ultimately participate in the paid labor market outside their homes. Due to the precarious employment conditions of the majority of employed women, it is unlikely that labor force participation by itself contributes to women’s empowerment; rather, women’s labor force participation reproduces existing marginalizations. Nevertheless, participating women themselves can experience significant improvements in their personal situations as a result of gainful employment, which provides them with income, recognition, social networks, and intellectual fulfillment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures
EditorsS. Joseph
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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