ISLAMABAD: The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) organised a seminar on Wednesday, titled Women’s Labour Market Participation & Child Care – Reforms for Labour Market Policy Effectiveness.The experts present on the panel talked about devolution, saying that a comprehensive labour policy was absent from provinces, therefore, it was about time for provinces to expedite the process of formulating inclusive and gender sensitive labour policies. Experts stressed the need for political engagements to bridge the legislative gap at provincial level and help the legislatures to draft the bill in this regard.Speaking on the occasion, SDPI Joint Executive Director Dr Vaqar Ahmed expressed the concern that even after a gap of three years, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces are unable to draft their respective labour policies. “After the 18th constitutional amendment, it is now the responsibility of provincial governments to formulate and implement inclusive labour policies,” he said, adding that the provincial governments also need to ensure compliance with labour right laws as per requirement of the GSP-Plus facility provided by the European Union for duty-free exports to European countries.Dr Vaqar Ahmed further said that gender-sensitive labour policies are urgently required to increase women’s labour force participation. “Women’s active role in productive activities can also be encouraged through well designed social safety nets that train and financially support women to be vibrant members of the society. This is extremely important for Pakistan as the global gender gap index has placed Pakistan 143 out of 144 countries in 2017,” he concluded. SDPI Project Coordinator Ahad Nazir said that there were better chances of empowering women through social entrepreneurship development than other available options.“Most of the social enterprises are effectively working towards skill development, job creation and counseling especially for women,” he said. While Pakistan has seen a boom in the entrepreneurship eco-system in the last few years, only 1 percent women have been reported as entrepreneurs in the World Bank Group’s Pakistan Development Update-Fall 2017, he maintained. Ahad Nazir said that the major challenges of women entrepreneurs include the conflict between work and family and financial insecurities.“These challenges can be addressed through effective and operational single windows at SECP, FBR and other federal and provincial public interaction offices, incentivised inclusion of women entrepreneurs in public procurement and promotion of shared responsibilities of care,” he suggested. A social entrepreneur Samar Hussain, who was also present during the discussion, said that there was a need to rethink women’s labour force participation and childcare policies.“A more responsive policy intervention at national and sub-national levels can improve the outcomes and quality of life of children and families, besides improving productivity of women work force in wage and self-employment,” she said. Samar Hussain further said that in our society women are shy and reluctant to talk about their rights, hence, remained unheard and marginalised. She called upon the women to come forward and stand for their rights.Published in Daily Times, February 8th 2018.