Discrimination In Employment:
Equal employment opportunity (EEO) is a new concept in Pakistan. Pakistan�s constitution puts a ban on discrimination on the basis of gender (Articles 27 and 34). Pakistan is also a signatory of ILO instruments (Conventions No. 100, 111, 159 etc) that prohibit discrimination in employment. However, Pakistani organizations in practice do not offer equal opportunities and there are instances of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, ethnicity etc. Effect of discrimination is more pronounced for women due to a host of factors including feudal and patriarchal nature of society and misinterpretation of religion.
EEO Model For Pakistan:
There is no concerted effort on the national scale to introduce equal employment practices. Government and corporate sector do not have a model for EEO, and do not appreciate its rationale. A majority of employers in Pakistan perceive equal employment and affirmative action (AA) as a western idea not relevant to Pakistani society. Popular opinion is to think of EEO and AA as an additional bureaucratic expenditure that does not contribute to organizational productivity and competitiveness. With short-term monetary targets as the top most priority, a typical Pakistani employer fails to understand that EEO will contribute to cost effective decision-making and efficient management. In the absence of a viable model for EEO, equal employment for Pakistani organizations will remain a dream.
It would be imprudent to transplant a western concept of EEO that does not conform to Pakistani culture and value system. In this article I shall propose a model for EEO in Pakistan, based on two factors:
1. Specific Characteristics of Pakistani Society:
- Identification of specific characteristics of Pakistani society
- Analysis of a survey about discrimination in Pakistani society
II. Survey: HR Managers� Perception About EEO
- Diversity in population: Religious and ethnic diversity
- Culturally divergent values across society
- Inclusive nature of society: e.g. Pakistan accommodated huge influx of immigrants in 1947 and in early eighties.
- Population: Above 147 millions (7th largest in the world, and second largest Islamic country)
- Poverty: About 33% of the population lives below poverty line
- Low literacy rate: About 50.5%
- Disability: About 2.54% of the population
- Feudal background: A legacy of British Raj in India
- Influence of Indian caste system: An offshoot of stratification in Indian society
- Nepotism and corruption: Pakistanis in general are more affected by class and corporate corruption as compared to capability and effort.
- Special respect for women: Pakistan is the first Islamic democracy to have elected a female politician as its Prime Minister - Benazir Bhutto.
- Gender bias: Effect of discrimination is more pronounced for women than for any other community in Pakistan.
- Sexual orientation: Pakistani society does not approve of homosexuality, bisexuality and sexual promiscuity, on religious grounds.
- Islamic fundamentalism: Traditionally, religious parties have not secured more than a few seats in the national assembly. However there are more than 8000 religious schools in Pakistan with about 600,000 to 700,000 students.
- Concept about western agenda: Instead of subscribing to a western discourse on feminism and individualism, which is irrelevant to Pakistan�s cultural context, majority of Pakistanis favor defining their context and paradigms for equality and perceive Jinnah and Iqbal as their role models.
I conducted a qualitative research in June 2003 about the perception and understanding of human resource managers about diversity and discrimination in Pakistani society. In total 25 organizations (HR Managers) were approached, out of which I received feedback by 10 respondents. The respondents belong to different sectors including: food and beverages 3, textiles 2, pharmaceutical 1, information technology 1, education 1, consultancy 1 and banking 1. All of the respondents expressed their willingness to be available for future surveys and interviews in this research.
Q. 1: What is your definition of EEO?
Q. 2: Do men and women have equal employment rights in Islam?
- 90% HR managers defined EEO as �no discrimination against anyone�
- 10% define EEO as �no discrimination against women� (gender specific perception)
Q. 3: What are the advantages of EEO to an organization?
- 70% say Yes.
- 60% because of Islamic injunctions (10% prerequisite a harassment free culture)
- 10% because it is dangerous to say No
- 30% say No.
- 10% due to Islamic injunctions
- 10% because women have greater rights regarding nature of work they may be asked to do
- 10% because men and women may not be suitable for certain jobs, due to nature of the job
(Respondents were allowed to give more than one answers):
Q. 4: What are the advantages of EEO to a society?
- 80% say: Improved morale, cooperation, harmony, balance and working relations
- 60% say: Merit
- 60% say: Improvement in performance, productivity and competitiveness
- 30% say: Diversity
- 10% say: Better discipline
Q. 5: What are the disadvantages of EEO to an organization?
- 50% say: Economic growth
- 40% say: Economic parity
- 30% say: Social justice
- 30% say: Tolerance level
- 10% say: Women independence
Q. 6: What are the disadvantages of EEO to a society?
- 40% say: Nil
- 30% say: Too many conflicts including harassment cases
- 10% each: Compromise on merit, decreased efficiency, romances and affairs
Q. 7: Who are victims of discrimination in a Pakistani organization?
- 30% say: Poor family life
- 10% each: More stress in life, loss of historic balance, loss of women�s respect, liberalization, undue advantage to minorities
- 10% say: Nil
Summary of Findings:
- 90% say: Disabled
- 80% say: Non-Muslim Minorities
- 70% say: Women
- 70% say: Muslim Minorities
- 60% say: Linguistic Minorities
- 10% say: Ordinary Males
- HR managers define EEO as �no discrimination against anyone on any pretext.�
- They perceive that there is discrimination in Pakistani organizations on the basis of physical ability, religion, sect, gender and language.
- HR managers believe that EEO will result in a better working relationship, morale, balance, meritocracy and productivity in their organizations. They also believe that EEO will improve conditions of social justice, tolerance and economic growth in the society.
- About 60% HR managers favor gender equality because of Islamic injunctions whereas about 10% oppose this idea on the same ground.
- HR managers favor equal employment opportunity to females, with special emphasis on a harassment free work culture.
- A significant number of HR managers think that EEO may negatively affect their family life and natural balance in the society.
III. Proposed EEO Model For A Pakistani Organization:
- This is a survey about perceptions of Pakistani HR managers about EEO. It should not be misconstrued as a representative thought of employees in general.
- HR managers are comparatively more educated about social and legal rights and obligations towards recruitment and compensation etc, thus their awareness about EEO is already better than other employees.
- This survey however provides useful information about general EEO issues and challenges in Pakistani society.
On the basis of my study about diversity and discrimination in Pakistani society, I propose following model for equal employment in a Pakistani organization:
- Organizational commitment: Commitment by the top management to introduce equal employment practices in their organization.
- Policy formulation
- Eliminate unlawful discrimination
- Ensure that prevalent negative attitudes and customs that constrain women and other disadvantaged groups are changed
- Ensure that the disadvantaged groups� concerns are reflected at all stages of development and subsequently, institutionalized.
- Promote intercommunity relationship
- Responsibility identification: Formation of EEO Committee comprising representatives of management, labor union, women and disadvantaged groups
- Publication of EEO policy and plans
- Provide awareness, training and support in the light of guiding principles
- Employees and community participation: Through labor union, vocational institute, NGOs, local bodies etc.
- Develop gender-sensitive and equity based economic growth indicators.
- Development of EEO indicators: The provision of gender and class disaggregated data, targets and indicators
- Set equality targets through affirmative action e.g. start with a minimum 5% quota for female employees in the organization. Raise this figure to 20% in five years etc.
- Enforce EEO discipline: Code of conduct, procedure, formats, punitive actions
- Define EEO exceptions: Religious institutions, performance, illegal immigrants etc.
- Biannual and annual reviews and audits
The EEO Model will be guided by the following:
- Principles of gender and human equality in Islam and as enshrined in the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan in particular Articles 25 and 34, Convention of the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), and relevant ILO instruments (Conventions No. 100, 111, 159 etc).
- Vision of founders of Pakistan (Mr. Jinnah and Allama Iqbal) about equality and diversity
- Social responsibility: Priority to the poor and the disadvantaged groups of society
- Recommendations by the commissions on gender and general equality set up by the Government