May 03, 2023, Karachi: Unilever Pakistan hosted an interactive dialogue to discuss the importance of living wages in Pakistan. The session focused on the benefits of fair pay and living wages to businesses, communities, and the country. A living wage accounts for the diverse lifestyle needs of a person in line with their present economic realities so they can afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his family. Living wages consider needs around healthcare, shelter, nutrition, educational expenses, utilities, emergency funds for an average household.
The round table brought together industry leaders and organisations that have taken up the mission of providing better livelihoods to their workers in Pakistan. Leaders from Jazz, Bank Alfalah, Careem, and foodpanda, along with senior officials from Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OICCI), Rozee.pk, Naya Jeevan and ABHI, participated in the strategic alliance as active enablers for the living wage mission. Each organization brought their own unique perspective and experiences around their efforts to ensure the socioeconomic uplift and financial wellbeing of their own and associated workforce. The discussion also included celebrity and social activist Shahzad Roy, and renowned economist Habib Paracha on the table.
The dialogue session provided a platform for participants to share their experiences and challenges as well as explore opportunities for collective action. Unilever Pakistan, the enabler for this strategic alliance, has already made significant progress towards this goal; while the company’s directly employed employees are already well above the living wage, the organisation has further shifted 60% of its outer core, which includes an indirect workforce of over 12,000 people in their business value chain, to an average living wage of PKR 52,000 with the goal to transition the remaining by 2025.
Sharing his remarks, Amir Paracha, CEO of Unilever Pakistan stated, “At Unilever, we firmly believe that living wages are crucial for people and businesses, and our vision under ‘Unilever for Pakistan’ is to make living wages a national benchmark. We are proud to bring together organizations that share the similar values and are committed to improving the lives and livelihoods of workers across Pakistan through fair wages.”
Aamir Ibrahim, CEO Jazz, said that the organization believes in fairness and equity in the workplace, and has taken various measures to prioritize employee well-being despite challenging times for the company.
He further said that Jazz recently provided a one-time inflation adjustment payout of up to PKR 50,000 for our frontline and contractual employees falling within a certain salary bracket. “Additionally, we set the minimum wage for our permanent employees to PKR 62,000, and our support and technical staff received a double-digit salary increment,” he informed.
Faisal Khan, Group Head HR & Learning Bank Alfalah, said that “At Bank Alfalah, we are making groundbreaking efforts to streamline and enhance the working environment while empowering employees by promoting comprehensive Employee Benefit Policies such as benchmarking living wage and increasing retirement age to 65.”
Appreciating the efforts, Imran Saleem, General Manager Ride Hailing at Careem Pakistan stated, “Careem’s purpose is simplifying and improving the lives of people in the region. This purpose comes hand-in-hand with creating income generating opportunities for the masses. In addition to maintaining fair living wages for our colleagues, we have been blessed with the opportunity to provide 820,000+ Captains a means to earn a decent livelihood. I am delighted to see like-minded organisations share a similar mission to provide fair living wages within their ecosystem, and their efforts on implementation.”
CEO foodpanda, Muntaqa Peracha commented, “At foodpanda, we are proud of the initiatives we have taken to support our riders and ensure they earn above the minimum wage. We provide a transparent payment system, necessary equipment, rewards and incentives programs to recognize their hard work. We remain committed to supporting our riders and creating a positive impact on their lives, enabling us to deliver exceptional service to our customers and remain a leading food delivery platform.”
The dialogue session came at a crucial time, following Labour Day and in the context of a challenging socio-economic environment. It came as an opportunity for industry leaders to come together, learn from one another, and work towards a common goal of building a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive society.
With its global goal of ‘Fairer pay for a fairer world’, Unilever Pakistan understands that the economic growth is only inclusive and sustainable when workers receive fair wages. This strategic alliance will help partner organizations learn for each other’s experiences, and collectively take the next steps towards making living wages a national benchmark.