Time to shift employment’s needle | The Express Tribune


Out of 225.2 million population of Pakistan, 137.3 million (61%) falls within the age bracket of 15 to 64 years, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) data revealed.

The aforementioned figures reflect that the availability of labour is not an issue for Pakistan however employment of the workforce is. The problem does not only revolve around the unemployment of labour and it also includes the scarcity of the worker with the desired skill set. While there is no point in discussing the grievances expressed by the common man regarding job creation, the fact that the government is responsible to take the employment progression curve to newer heights cannot be dismissed.

There are several reasons behind the ongoing chaos in the job market and they need to be addressed bit by bit. Besides the fact that there is a dearth of employment opportunities, low wages and miserable working environment are also discouraging the workers. Finding a lucrative job is the right of people and it cannot be denied however, having the desired skills and meeting employers’ hopes are also complementary traits that are expected from the workers.

It is vital for the businesses to understand the importance of trust cultivation between the employees and employers. They need to promote meritocracy and reward culture to incentivise the labour. They must work to develop systems that attract trustworthy and committed workers. This factor has been missing in Pakistan unfortunately.

It is the duty of our policymakers to thoroughly investigate the matter of unemployment, be it real or perceived, because absence of jobs is not the only issue plaguing Pakistan’s labour market. Weak or no liaison between the employers and labour providers is one big reason fuelling unemployment in Pakistan. To resolve the matter, strict implementation of policies backed by effective laws and regulations will help the government for sure.

The 2% annual growth in population, that is resulting in addition of nearly 2.5 million people to the labour market every year, is going to become extremely unmanageable theoretically. However, the fact that females have lower participation in the job market compared to males had not spoiled the case much. The aforementioned reason bothers the government of Pakistan a little less than it should, in accordance with the statistics. The low participation of females is a separate and a heavy hammer on Pakistan’s economy altogether.

The Labour Force Survey (2018-2019), shared recently by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), revealed that Pakistan had working age population of 77.4 million males and 76.1 million females, giving a total of 153.5 million potential workers.

A large share of workforce, nearly 61.3%, resides in rural areas whereas 38.6% hails from the urban parts of the country, the survey showed. The rural working population has an unemployment rate of 6.4% which is lower than 7.9% of the urban workforce. The primordial state of agriculture forces Pakistan’s agro-economy to depend heavily on manual labour, creating a huge number of jobs in the agriculture sector while the urban workforce continues to suffer.

To speak the truth, the proportion of unemployment in rural regions (6.4%) and urban areas (7.9%) is relatively high vis-à-vis advancing economies, keeping an overall unemployment rate of Pakistan at 6.9% in 2018-2019.

Over the past many years, data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) has revealed that the unemployment rate has been oscillating within the band of 5% to 6% and now, it has breached the upper limit to stand at 6.9%.

The 6.9% unemployment rate in 2018-19 raises concerns of further worsening of the unemployment situation in upcoming years as Covid-19 induced lockdowns and layoffs would be reflected partially in 2019-2020 and completely in 2020-2021 figures.

To harness the available potential of our labour, acceleration in learning and training programmes is direly needed and this can be achieved by reorientation of our priorities when it comes to spending. During fiscal year 2018-2019, Rs97.155 billion was spent on education affairs and services in Pakistan which is estimated at just around 2.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) of FY19.

While aiming for reduction in gaps between the required and available lot of labour, restructuring of the technical and vocational education is a cogent case. Sustainable growth of economy and greater employment rate can only be achieved by revising the allocated budget upwards for non-academic education along with the targeted and results oriented expenditures.

Besides National Vocational and Training Commission (NAVTTC) and Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA), establishment of many more bodies is now inevitable for the conversion of unskilled labour into semi and fully skilled individuals. This will boost our local industries’ produce and also improve demand of our workers in the foreign markets.

It is time for the policymakers to provide a long-term solution to this issue that is in the greater interest of the country irrespective of their political affiliations.

The writer is a mechanical engineer and pursuing masters degree


Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2021.

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