International Development Planning Review

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs in Pakistan

International Development Planning Review Ahead of print, 1–27.


This study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s informal sector based on perceived sales increase/decrease and satisfaction with sales. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had profound economic effects, putting women entrepreneurs at considerable risk of losing income and sales growth as a result. Women reporting sales increases and sales satisfaction tended to be older, have lower education levels, have larger households, be married, own a home, have a supportive family and report an average family financial position. The impact of family support on sales variables depended on the size of the household. The type of business was also affected during the pandemic. This study is unique because it focuses on the impact of the pandemic at the household level where women have taken on increased responsibilities for work and family beyond those in ‘normal’ times. The household level of analysis is critical for understanding the dynamics of women’s informal, home-based businesses in the family context. Findings suggest the resilience, agility and multiplier effects of women entrepreneurs in the face of cultural, economic, social and institutional constraints encountered during the pandemic.

Access Token
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here


Afshan, G., Shahid, S. and Tunio, M. N. (2021) ‘Learning experiences of women entrepreneurs amidst COVID-19’, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 13(2), 162-186. Google Scholar

Afza, T. and Rashid, M. A. (2009) ‘Marginalized women social well-being through enterprise development: a glimpse of remote women status in Pakistan’, Journal of Chinese Entrepreneurship, 1(3), 248-267. Google Scholar

Aju, S. I. and Adeosun, O. T. (2021) ‘Constraints to participation in the management of cooperative societies: insights for women in Awka community’, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, 15(4), 508-530. Google Scholar

Akehurst, G., Simarro, E. and Mas-Tur, A. (2012) ‘Women entrepreneurship in small service firms: motivations, barriers and performance’, The Service Industries Journal, 32(15), 2489-2505. Google Scholar

Aldrich, H. E. and Cliff, J. E. (2003) ‘The pervasive effects of family on entrepreneurship: toward a family embeddedness perspective’, Journal of Business Venturing, 18(5), 573-596. Google Scholar

Anwar, M. N. and Daniel, E. M. (2017) ‘Ethnic entrepreneurs and online home-based businesses: an exploratory study’, Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research, 7(6), 1-21. Google Scholar

Ayatakshi-Endow, S. and Steele, J. (2021) ‘Striving for balance: women entrepreneurs in Brazil, their multiple gendered roles and Covid-19’, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 13(2), 121-141. Google Scholar

Baird, M. and Hill, E. (2020) ‘Covid-19 and women’s economic participation’, (accessed 22 November 2020). Google Scholar

Balog, D. L. T., Zouain, D. M. and Teixeira, A. C. C. (2021) ‘Black female entrepreneurs in Rio: challenges of COVID-19’, Revista Pensamento Contemporâneo em Administração, 15, 1-18. Google Scholar

Beutell, N. J. and O’Hare, M. M. (2020) ‘Wellbeing, family, support, and health among women entrepreneurs in the United States’, in Lepeley et al. (eds), 40-53. Google Scholar

Brixiová, Z., Kangoye, T., Yogo, T. U. J. S. C. and Dynamics, E. (2020) ‘Access to finance among small and medium-sized enterprises and job creation in Africa’, Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, 55, 177-189. Google Scholar

Buor, D. (2004) ‘Determinants of utilisation of health services by women in rural and urban areas in Ghana’, GeoJournal, 61(1), 89-102. Google Scholar

Bushra, A. and Wajiha, N. (2015) ‘Assessing the socio-economic determinants of women empowerment in Pakistan’, Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 177, 3-8. Google Scholar

Chant, S. (2014) ‘Exploring the “feminisation of poverty” in relation to women’s work and home-based enterprise in slums of the global South’, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 6(3), 296-316. Google Scholar

Chowdhury, S. and Endres, M. (2005) ‘Gender difference and the formation of entrepreneurial self-efficacy’ (paper delivered to the United States Association of Small Business (USASBE) annual conference, Indian Well, CA, 13-15 January). Google Scholar

Coleman, S. (2007) ‘The role of human and financial capital in the profitability and growth of women-owned small firms’, Journal of Small Business Management, 45(3), 303-319. Google Scholar

Daily Dawn (2020) ‘39 coronavirus cases in one go spread fear in Mardan’, Dawn, 26 March, (accessed 26 October 2020). Google Scholar

Dijkhuizen, J. (2020) ‘Exploring degrees of wellbeing of women entrepreneurs in the middle east: a personal account’, in Lepeley et al. (eds), 345-356. Google Scholar

Evans, D. S. and Jovanovic, B. (1989) ‘An estimated model of entrepreneurial choice under liquidity constraints’, Journal of Political Economy, 97(4), 808-827. Google Scholar

Fajnzylber, P., Maloney, W. and Rojas, G. M. (2006) ‘Microenterprise dynamics in developing countries: how similar are they to those in the industrialized world? Evidence from Mexico’, The World Bank Economic Review, 20(3), 389-419. Google Scholar

Galambos, L. and Amatori, F. (2016) ‘The entrepreneurial multiplier effect’, Enterprise & Society, 17(4), 763-808. Google Scholar

Gimenez-Nadal, J. I., Molina, J. A. and Ortega, R. (2012) ‘Self-employed mothers and the work-family conflict’, Applied Economics, 44(17), 2133-2147. Google Scholar

Goldstein, L., Nidich, S. I., Goodman, R. and Goodman, D. (2018) ‘The effect of transcendental meditation on self-efficacy, perceived stress, and quality of life in mothers in Uganda’, Health Care for Women International, 39(7), 734-754. Google Scholar

Gopalan, N., Pattusamy, M. and Gollakota, K. (2020) ‘Role of support in work-family interface among university faculty in India’, South Asian Journal of Business Studies, 9(3), 323-338. Google Scholar

Greenhaus, J. H. and Beutell, N. J. (1985) ‘Sources of conflict between work and family roles’, The Academy of Management Review, 10(1), 76-88. Google Scholar

Harpriya, Sharma, R. and Sah, A. (2020) ‘Impact of demographic factors on the financial performance of women-owned micro-enterprises in India’, International Journal of Finance & Economics, 27, 1-12. Google Scholar

Hsu, D. K., Wiklund, J., Anderson, S. E. and Coffey, B. S. (2016) ‘Entrepreneurial exit intentions and the business-family interface’, Journal of Business Venturing, 31(6), 613-627. Google Scholar

Hussain, S. and Zaheer, R. (2020) ‘Role of rural women in development and export earnings of Pakistan’s dairy industry’, Pakistan Journal of Gender Studies, 20(1), 211-228. Google Scholar

ILO (International Labour Organization) (2020) ‘COVID-19 and the world of work: impact and policy responses’, (ILO Monitor 1st edition), (accessed 14 July 2020). Google Scholar

Ingalagi, S. S., Nawaz, N., Habeeb Ur, R., Hariharasudan, A. and Hundekar, V. (2021) ‘Unveiling the crucial factors of women entrepreneurship in the 21st century’, Social Sciences, 10(5), 153. Google Scholar

Jafree, S. R. and Anwar, N. (2020) ‘Social protection for socioeconomically vulnerable women of Pakistan-during Covid-19 and beyond’, Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies: Alam-e-Niswan, 27(2), 75-85. Google Scholar

Jaim, J. (2021) ‘Exist or exit? Women business-owners in Bangladesh during COVID-19’, Gender, Work & Organization, 28, 209-226. Google Scholar

Kelikume, I. (2021) ‘Digital financial inclusion, informal economy and poverty reduction in Africa’, Journal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy, 15(4), 626-640. Google Scholar

Kim, N. K. N. and Parker, S. C. (2020) ‘Entrepreneurial homeworkers’, Small Business Economics, 57, Google Scholar

Kim, O. S., Parker, J. A. and Schoar, A. (2020) ‘Revenue collapses and the consumption of small business owners in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic’ (NBER working paper series), (accessed 30 September 2021). Google Scholar

Kim, Y. and Gao, F. Y. (2013) ‘Does family involvement increase business performance? Family-longevity goals’ moderating role in Chinese family firms’, Journal of Business Research, 66(2), 265-274. Google Scholar

Kurczewska, A., Doryń, W. and Wawrzyniak, D. (2020) ‘An everlasting battle between theoretical knowledge and practical skills? The joint impact of education and professional experience on entrepreneurial success’, Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 8(2), 219-237. Google Scholar

Laffineur, C., Barbosa, S. D., Fayolle, A. and Nziali, E. (2017) ‘Active labor market programs’ effects on entrepreneurship and unemployment’, Small Business Economics, 49(3), 889-918. Google Scholar

Leask, C. and Ruggunan, S. (2021) ‘A temperature reading of COVID-19 pandemic employee agility and resilience in South Africa’, SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, 47, 1853. Google Scholar

Lepeley, M.-T., Kuschel, K., Beutell, N. J., Pouw, N. and Eijdenberg, E. L. (2020) The Wellbeing of Women in Entrepreneurship: A Global Perspective, London, Routledge. Google Scholar

Lepeley, M. T. (2020) ‘The multiplier effect of wellbeing of women entrepreneurs: A practical approach and personal account’, in Lepeley et al. (eds), 3-22. Google Scholar

Leung, Y. K., Mukerjee, J. and Thurik, R. (2020) ‘The role of family support in work-family balance and subjective well-being of SME owners’, Journal of Small Business Management, 58(1), 130-163. Google Scholar

Loscocco, K. and Smith-Hunter, A. (2004) ‘Women home-based business owners: insights from comparative analyses’, Women in Management Review, 19(3), 164-173. Google Scholar

Mackie, P., Brown, A., Mehmood, A. and Ahmed, S. (2022) ‘Multi-dimensional conflict and the resilient urban informal economy in Karachi, Pakistan’, International Development Planning Review, 44(2), 169-189. Google Scholar

Maden, C. (2015) ‘A gendered lens on entrepreneurship: women entrepreneurship in Turkey’, Gender in Management, 30, 312-331. Google Scholar

Malik, A., Majid, H., Ahmad, H. and Perera, I. (2016) Women in Pakistan’s Urban Informal Economy, Washington, Urban Institute Oxfam. Google Scholar

Manolova, T. S., Brush, C. G., Edelman, L. F. and Elam, A. (2020) ‘Pivoting to stay the course: how women entrepreneurs take advantage of opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic’, International Small Business Journal, 38(6), 481-491. Google Scholar

Mapuranga, M., Eugine Tafadzwa, M. and Tarisai Fritz, R. (2021) ‘A hand to mouth existence: hurdles emanating from the COVID 19 pandemic for women survivalist entrepreneurs in Johannesburg, South Africa’, African Journal of Gender, Society & Development, 10(3), 113-140. Google Scholar

Mason, C. (2020) ‘The coronavirus economic crisis: its impact on venture capital and high growth enterprises’ (research report, Publications Office of the European Union), (accessed 12 July 2021). Google Scholar

Modak, T. S., Baksi, S. and Johnson, D. (2020) ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Indian villages’, Review of Agrarian Studies, 10(1), 181-203. Google Scholar

Mohapatra, S. (2021) ‘Gender differentiated economic responses to crises in developing countries: insights for COVID-19 recovery policies’, Review of Economics of the Household, 19(5), 291-306. Google Scholar

Mozumdar, L., Hagelaar, G., Van Der Velde, G. and Omta, S. W. F. (2020) ‘Determinants of the business performance of women entrepreneurs in the developing world context’, J, 3(2), 215-235. Google Scholar

Muhammad, S., Kong, X., Saqib, S. E. and Beutell, N. J. (2021) ‘Entrepreneurial income and wellbeing: women’s informal entrepreneurship in a developing context’, Sustainability, 13, 10262. Google Scholar

Muhammad, S. and Ximei, K. (2020) ‘Islamic financial system: a brief introduction from the literature’, Al-Azhāar, 6(2), 1-12. Google Scholar

Muhammad, S., Ximei, K., Saqib, S. E., Haq, Z. U., Muhammad, N. and Sikandar (2020a) ‘The family network support and disparity among rural-urban women informal entrepreneurs: empirical evidences from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan’, Journal of Geography Social Sciences, 2(2), 122-132. Google Scholar

Muhammad, S., Ximei, K., Sharif, I. and Haq, Z. U. (2020b) ‘An overview of women entrepreneurship from Islamic perspective’, Review of Economics and Development Studies, 6(4), 857-866. Google Scholar

Mustafa, F., Khursheed, A., Fatima, M. and Rao, M. (2021) ‘Exploring the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women entrepreneurs in Pakistan’, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 13(2), 187-203. Google Scholar

Nisbett, N., Davis, P., Yosef, S. and Akhtar, N. (2017) ‘Bangladesh’s story of change in nutrition: strong improvements in basic and underlying determinants with an unfinished agenda for direct community level support’, Global Food Security, 13, 21-29. Google Scholar

Odeku, K. O. (2020) ‘The plight of women entrepreneurs during Covid-19 pandemic lockdown in South Africa’, Gender & Behaviour, 18(3), 16068-16074. Google Scholar

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) (2020) ‘Women at the core of the fight against COVID-19 crisis’, (accessed 12 July 2020). Google Scholar

Opoku, E. E. O., Ibrahim, M. and Sare, Y. A. (2019) ‘The causal relationship between financial development and economic growth in Africa’, International Review of Applied Economics, 33(6), 789-812. Google Scholar

PBS (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics) (2017-2018a) ‘Labour force survey’, (accessed 26 February 2020). Google Scholar

PBS (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics) (2017-2018b) ‘Province wise provisional results of census’, (accessed 25 July 2020). Google Scholar

Perrons, D. (2003) ‘The new economy and the work-life balance: conceptual explorations and a case study of new media’, Gender, Work & Organization, 10(1), 65-93. Google Scholar

Razzak, M. R. and Jassem, S. (2019) ‘Socioemotional wealth and performance in private family firms’, Journal of Family Business Management, 9(4), 393-415. Google Scholar

Safdar, M. and Yasmin, M. (2020) ‘COVID-19: a threat to educated Muslim women’s negotiated identity in Pakistan’, Gender, Work & Organization, 27(5), 683-694. Google Scholar

Schneebaum, A., Rehm, M., Mader, K. and Hollan, K. (2018) ‘The gender wealth gap across European countries’, Review of Income and Wealth, 64(2), 295-331. Google Scholar

Shafi, M., Liu, J., Jian, D., Rahman, I. U. and Chen, X. (2021) ‘Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural communities: a cross-sectional study in the Sichuan Province of China’, BMJ Open, 11(8), e046745. Google Scholar

Shafi, M., Liu, J. and Ren, W. (2020) ‘Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises operating in Pakistan’, Research in Globalization, 2, 100018. Google Scholar

Shah, M. K., Saddique, U., Ahmad, S., Hayat, Y., Ur Rahman, S., Hassan, M. F. and Ali, T. (2017) ‘Isolation rate and antimicrobial susceptibility profiles of mycoplasma mycoides subspecies capri field isolates from sheep and goats in Pakistan’, Small Ruminant Research, 153, 118-122. Google Scholar

Shelton, L. M. (2006) ‘Female entrepreneurs, work-family conflict, and venture performance: new insights into the work-family interface’, Journal of Small Business Management, 44(2), 285-297. Google Scholar

Shuai, Y., Shuai, C.-M., Li, W.-J. and Huang, F.-B. (2019) ‘Role of women’s empowerment in improving farmer’s livelihood: empirical evidence from China’, Quality and Quantity, 53(2), 621-639. Google Scholar

Stephens, S., Cunningham, I. and Kabir, Y. (2021) ‘Female entrepreneurs in a time of crisis: evidence from Ireland’, International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship, 13(2), 106-120. Google Scholar

Tahir, M. W., Kauser, R., Bury, M. and Bhatti, J. S. (2018) ‘“Individually-led” or “female-male partnership” models for entrepreneurship with the BISP support: the story of women’s financial and social empowerment from Pakistan’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 68, 1-10. Google Scholar

Thébaud, S. (2015) ‘Business as plan B: institutional foundations of gender inequality in entrepreneurship across 24 industrialized countries’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 60(4), 671-711. Google Scholar

Tur-Porcar, A., Mas-Tur, A. and Belso, J. A. (2017) ‘Barriers to women entrepreneurship. different methods, different results?’, Quality & Quantity, 51, 2019-2034. Google Scholar

UN (United Nations) (2020) ‘Sustainable Development Goals report’, (accessed 15 February 2020). Google Scholar

Ur Rahman, I., Jian, D., Junrong, L. and Shafi, M. (2021) ‘Socio-economic status, resilience, and vulnerability of households under COVID-19: case of village-level data in Sichuan province’, PLOS ONE, 16(4), e0249270. Google Scholar

Villaseca, D., Navío-Marco, J. and Gimeno, R. (2021) ‘Money for female entrepreneurs does not grow on trees: start-ups’ financing implications in times of COVID-19’, Journal of Entrepreneurship in Emerging Economies, 13(4), 698-720. Google Scholar

Vodă, A. I. and Florea, N. (2019) ‘Impact of personality traits and entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurial intentions of business and engineering students’, Sustainability, 11(4), 1192. Google Scholar

Wang, C., Wang, D., Abbas, J., Duan, K. and Mubeen, R. (2021) ‘Global financial crisis, smart lockdown strategies, and the COVID-19 spillover impacts: a global perspective implications from Southeast Asia’, Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 643783. Google Scholar

Watson, J. (2002) ‘Comparing the performance of male-and female-controlled businesses: relating outputs to inputs’, Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, 26(3), 91-100. Google Scholar

Werner, A. (2020) ‘Why unemployment fueled by pandemic is hitting women harder than men’, CBS News, 15 May, (accessed 15 December 2020). Google Scholar

World Economic Forum (2020) ‘Our recovery from the coronavirus crisis must have gender empowerment at its heart’, World Economic Forum, 14 May, (accessed 15 December 2020). Google Scholar

Xheneti, M., Karki, S. T. and Madden, A. (2019) ‘Negotiating business and family demands within a patriarchal society: the case of women entrepreneurs in the Nepalese context’, Entrepreneurship Regional Development, 31(3-4), 259-278. Google Scholar

Yamane, T. (1967) Statistics: An Introductory Analysis, New York, Harper & Row. Google Scholar

Yunis, M. S., Hashim, H. and Anderson, A. R. (2019) ‘Enablers and constraints of female entrepreneurship in Khyber Pukhtunkhawa, Pakistan: institutional and feminist perspectives’, Sustainability, 11(1), 27. Google Scholar

Yusufzai, A. (2021) ‘Complete lockdown imposed in Mardan’, (accessed 29 July 2021). Google Scholar

Zeb, A. and Ihsan, A. (2020) ‘Innovation and the entrepreneurial performance in women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises in Pakistan’, Women’s Studies International Forum, 79, 102342. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here