Exploring ‘Employee Voice’ of Informal Female Workers of the Textiles Industry in Pakistan: A Grounded Theory Approach

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Erum Shafi
Evelyn S. Devadason
VGR Chandran Govindaraju


Firm restructuring and labour subcontracting has paved the way for the rise
of informalisation in the female-dominated textiles industry of Pakistan after the expiry of
the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC). Despite the emergence of low quality of
employment available for women in the informal economy, there is a dearth of knowledge
on their position at the workplace, namely ‘employee voice.’ This study therefore explores
the employee voice of informal female workers of the stitching and ginning sections of
the textiles industry in Pakistan in the post ATC period. A grounded theory approach,
involving 25 in-depth interviews with informal female workers and employers, is used to
explore employer-employee interactions. The findings reveal that the core requirements
of the ‘capability for voice’ of informal female workers centre on ‘decisions of employers’,
‘bearing of tradition’ and ‘worker performance’. The grounded theory clarifies the
procedure and identifies the interaction of the above categories to form the contextual
conditions that direct the expectations of employers and female workers in the informal
labour market. The expectations of a ‘perfect fit’ of informal female workers, within the
hierarchy of the textiles industry, gives rise to a situation of ‘tolerance/no voice’, despite
the negative workplace culture. The findings indicate that strategies to advance gender
equality in Pakistan must consider informalisation of the labour market through a gender


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