The rise of the home chefs

Published November 28, 2022

In the recent past, ample initiatives have been set in motion to integrate women into the formal economy in Pakistan as well as globally, but sadly comprehensive financial inclusion of women is still a distant dream.

In Pakistan, while females comprise about 49 per cent of the total population, they only account for about 20pc of the total workforce in the country. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 published by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Pakistan ranked 153rd out of the total 156 countries on the gender parity index, only surpassing Iraq, Yemen, and Afghanistan. Until women are fully integrated into the workforce and are supported in achieving their economic potential, sustained growth with a more holistic economic impact is not possible.

Even after decades of progress towards making women equal players in the global society, gender inequality in the workforce remains significant, largely shaped by the lack of viable economic opportunities.

In Pakistan, given the current female literacy rate stands at 48pc and the literacy rate for males is at 70pc, women, especially those lesser educated, often find themselves struggling for opportunities to prove themselves. While improving the literacy rate is the first step, it’s a rather long-term plan that does no good to the women struggling to find jobs today. It is important to upskill the workforce, but also critical to leverage the current capabilities to offer sustainable livelihoods and position females as equal contributing partners to the economic fibre of the country.

By opting for jobs that turn their limitations into strengths, women working from home add to the economy and become financially independent

During the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic, when uncertainty loomed over everyone, people had a collective urge to explore their skills and experiment with new things in their bid to find opportunities for economic sustenance and perhaps growth. One area that offered tremendous opportunity (globally) was putting into practice culinary skills, which were expressed in the form of dalgona coffees to banana and sourdough breads.

Everyone tried their hand at cooking and while most of us realised it wasn’t our forte, others found their calling. This is especially true for home-based chefs, with a massive opportunity to monetise their skills and offer convenience to a plethora of customers through online aggregators.

Home chefs that came during the pandemic stemmed from a place of passion and were well-equipped to whip out restaurant-quality dishes and diverse cuisines all in the comfort of their own kitchen.

Being their own boss and running their own business also allows women to learn new things: they develop an aesthetic sense, work on feedback, and learn to be digitally efficient. The biggest perk of being a home chef is that women can tweak their menus according to the supplies they have and the food they’ve prepared.

Women at home, in most cases, cook every day for the family, so by increasing the quantity, they can earn a decent amount for themselves. Such economic empowerment also encourages positive gender dynamics in families where women gain more economic power and set an example for their families. These families, especially the younger generation, see women as financial contributors rather than economic dependents, which is still the case in our society.

In a report by McKinsey Global Institute, it was predicted that $12 trillion could be added to the global GDP by 2025 simply by advancing women’s parity. These numbers show that the lack of a female workforce represents a significant loss of potential productivity and economic development.

By opting for jobs that turn their limitations into strengths, women working from home continue to add to the economy, making them financially independent. This is critical for emerging markets like Pakistan and is supported holistically by the government as well.

It has become absolutely necessary for women to be given more and more opportunities to explore and showcase their talents to the world. While a few platforms are already empowering home-based chefs, there remains a dire need to bridge this gap and develop more opportunities for women who want to take on home-based positions and improve their own and their families’ livelihoods.

The writer is the Business Unit Head — HomeChef of Foodpanda, Pakistan

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, November 28th, 2022

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