Working Paper

Homemaker or Breadwinner: Labour Force Participation of Pakistani Women

Published: 2023

Pakistan has seen an increase in policy efforts to promote women’s participation in the labour force over recent years. However, existing research demonstrates that these efforts have not translated into an increase in women’s labour force participation. In this paper we use the ecological systems approach to examine multiple factors that influence Pakistani women’s participation in the labour market and experiences of employment.

Drawing on in-depth interviews with 35 Pakistani women, we examine how societal attitudes such as notions of honour, primacy of marriage, and persistence of gender inequality at home hinders women’s participation in the labour market.  Our results show men’s support in facilitating women to pursue employment and personal strategies adopted by women to overcome gender discrimination in the workplace are important factors associated with better labour market outcomes for women.

In addition to policies that focus on equal opportunities for women in the labour market and ratifying international conventions, there is an important need for affirmative action to put these policies into practice and awareness programs that address traditional societal attitudes that disadvantage women in Pakistan.

An updated version of this paper has been published as Zulfiqar A, Kuskoff E, Povey J, and Baxter J. (2024) Homemaker or breadwinner: labour force participation of Pakistani women. Community, Work & Family, 1–20. DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2024.2336031


Zulfiqar, A., Kuskoff, E., Povey, J., & Baxter, J. (2023). ‘Homemaker or Breadwinner: Labour Force Participation of Pakistani Women’, Life Course Centre Working Paper Series, 2023-17. Institute for Social Science Research, The University of Queensland.