Viewpoint: Pakistani Diversity in Practice

By Avinash Rajput and Ralph E. McKinney Jr., DBA July 28, 2020
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downtown Karachi, Pakistan

​Managing workforce diversity, equity and inclusion builds employers' brand images and helps organizations grow globally. This article examines the influence that workforce diversity has on Pakistani organizations and considers how individual factors (e.g., gender and disability diversity) impact the hiring practices and workplace relationships in those organizations. Advantages of diversity, equity and inclusion include an infusion of new ideas, creativity and innovation and a larger talent pool from which to recruit employees.

Globalization can result in demographic changes in the workforce as the integration of people from different countries brings diversity in not only religions, cultures and ethnicities, but in thoughts, values, attitudes, behavioral styles and norms, as well. Due to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement, many migrants from China are entering Pakistan and bringing religious and cultural diversity with them.

Gender Diversity

Women are progressively becoming part of many Pakistani organizations. Nonetheless, many working women feel discriminated against in the workforce. Every March, women participate in mass protests in Pakistan to bring attention to their struggle for equal rights.

There are few laws protecting women. The primary law relates to maternity leave and is expected to protect women's job security. Nonetheless, many organizations fail to follow the law. Many employees are not aware of the rights they have and do not seek legal action against employers in slow-moving courts. Moreover, there is much societal and cultural pressure against women's independence. Gender equality is still evolving.

Disability Diversity

Discrimination against individuals with disabilities is another challenge, despite laws passed and efforts made by the Pakistani government for fair treatment. People with disabilities continue to face hurdles, especially in employment. According to the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981, a 2 percent hiring quota for people with disabilities in the public and private sectors exists in Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, as well as in the city of Islamabad; the quota is 3 percent in Punjab province. But few audits are conducted, and therefore individuals with disabilities continue to be discriminated against in hiring. 

Nonetheless, most multinational organizations and a few national organizations have diversified workforces in which the right talent acquisition and management practices are followed. Industries, such as telecom, fast-moving consumer goods and tobacco, have significant foreign stakeholders that are promoting diversity.

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Suggested Changes

However, there are many areas for improvement in employment practices.

First, existing laws that provide fair recruitment and selection practices need to be followed. Article 26 of the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan states, "No person otherwise qualified can be discriminated against in the matter of employment on the basis of race, religion, caste, gender, residence or place of birth."

Most of the top employers in Pakistan appreciate diversified talent, including religiously diverse talent, but many Pakistani employers don't. According to a statement by U.S.-based human rights group International Christian Concern, "Christians in Pakistan continue to experience discrimination from a majority of employers."

Pakistan's laws do not directly provide age-discrimination protections. With the arrival of Millennials in leading positions, many organizations in Pakistan are not investing in training or developing older workers. Deep discussions on diversity may facilitate equal employment opportunities and foreign direct investments.

Avinash Rajput is an international student at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., with seven years of experience in human resources in Pakistan. Ralph E. McKinney Jr., DBA, is an associate professor at the Brad D. Smith Schools of Business at Marshall University. 

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