(Some) Pakistani Women Are Shopping a LotS

Despite growing conservatism, more Pakistani women are working and studying alongside their male peers, prompting a name-brand shopping boom in the process.

According to economists, somewhere between 28 percent and 36 percent of women are now working in Pakistan, and more are studying alongside men on college campuses, giving them additional confidence in the workplace, on campus, and — apparently — at the mall. "You can go into any shopping mall or any cafe, and you will see young girls sitting, having lunch, chatting away," Rashid Amjad, vice chancellor at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics in Islamabad, told the Washington Post. Imagine that!

Men are still primarily responsible for being breadwinners, so their wives get to use their salaries to splurge:

"I can afford to spend whatever I like," said Rabiya Bajwa, 37, a lawyer. "My income is roughly 20 percent more than what it was five years ago." Bajwa does contribute to the household budget, but her two-income family enjoys a comfortable "cushion," and she splurges on expensive designer clothes.

Retail store owners are, predictably, thrilled with the direction women's empowerment — and their paychecks — are heading in:

"We started from a small store, but now we have five outlets in various parts of the city," said Hasan Ali, manager of Bareeze, a leading brand of women's clothing. "We have been in the market for the last 10 years, and roughly the business has expanded 40 percent in that period. . . . There are those out there who don't even ask the price, and pay."

So are Pakistani Women Shopping Their Way to Equality? That would make a stellar headline, but that's not how life works, unless you're Cher Horowitz — if only it was so easy. Pakistan is still far behind other countries in terms of how much women contribute to the economy, and the retail boom is only happening in urban centers and for middle-class working women; women who toil away in rural areas actually contribute more to the economy, but not by buying designer goods.

"In rural areas, although the participation of women in the economy is more than the urban centers, they are not well-paid, and their share in the economy is much less," Lahore economist Hafiz Pasha said.

Where's their trend piece?


Pakistani women drive retail boom
[Washington Post]