Gender and Land Rights Database


In 2005, the population was estimated at 157.93 million, out of which 48.5 percent were women (1). In 2005, 65 percent of the population lived in rural areas (1). Women accounted for 48.6 percent of the rural population (2). Population density is 208 people per square kilometre (3).The majority of people live on the irrigated Indus River plain in Punjab and Sindh Provinces (4). The Punjabis represent 44.68 of the population. Other ethnic groups include: the Pashtun who account for 15.42 of the population; the Sindhi who account for 14.1 percent, the Sariaki and Muhagirs who represent 8.38 and 7.57 percent respectively; and other minority groups (5).

In 2007, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$142.9 billion; the per capita GDP was estimated at US$879, with an annual growth rate of 1.6 percent in 1990-2007 (6). Agriculture plays a major role in the economy, accounting for 20 percent of the GDP, employing 43 percent of the labour force, and providing 60 percent of the export earnings (4). Industry accounted for 27 percent of GDP and services for 53 percent in 2007. Arable crops represent 65 percent of the agricultural GDP, livestock represents 31 percent, and fishing and forestry represent 4 percent (4). Major crops include wheat, cotton, rice, millet and sugarcane (5). Some 20.9 million ha of land, corresponding to 26 percent of the total area, is cultivated. Irrigated land produces 90 percent of the total farm output. Although nearly 80 percent of the cropped area is irrigated, the sector is still quite vulnerable to climatic factors and pest attacks (4).

With a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.568 in 2006, the country ranks 142nd out of 182 countries (6). In 2005, 22.6 percent of the population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line (7). The undernourished population was 23 percent of the total (7). Life expectancy at birth in 2007 was estimated at 66.5 years for women and 65.9 years for men (6). Data on literacy show low literacy rates and a wide gender gap: in 2006, the literacy rate was 58.4 for women and 65.9 percent for men (7).

Formal female labour force participation is generally low. In 2007, 18.7 percent of women were economically active (1). Women are significantly concentrated in the agricultural sector, which employed 59 percent of all economically active women in 2007 (1). The same year, women accounted for 27.5 percent of the entire agricultural labour force (1). Women are major contributors to crop production, livestock production and cottage industry (8). Nearly 36 to 38 percent of economically active rural women work on their own family farms (9).

Land ownership is highly concentrated: 5 percent of large landholdings comprise 64 percent of the total farm land (11). More than 4 million family farms have an average plot of 4.7 ha, while 25 percent of farmers have less than 1 ha (4).

In January 1959, the government issued land reform regulations based on the distribution of land in excess of ceilings set at 200 ha for irrigated land and at 400 ha for non-irrigated land. Compensation was paid to the owners for the land surrendered. Numerous exemptions, including transfers of titles to family members, reduced the impact of the ceilings. About one million ha of land were yielded, of which only about 250 000 ha were sold to approximately 50 000 tenants (10). Additional measures, enacted in 1973, lowered the land ownership ceiling to about 5 ha for irrigated land and to about 12 ha for non-irrigated land. Furthermore, landlords were required to pay all taxes, water charges, seed costs, and one-half of the cost of fertilizer and other inputs. Tenants could not be evicted, as long as they cultivated the land and were given first rights of purchase. By 1977, about 520 000 ha had been acquired, and nearly 285 000 ha had been redistributed among about 71 000 farmers. Ceilings on private ownership of farmland were reduced further in 1977 and fixed at about 4 ha of irrigated land and about 8 ha of non-irrigated land (10).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography