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The shrinking job market


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Azhar Mahmood is young and unemployed. A fresh graduate in business administration from a private university in Lahore, he is worried about his future in the country’s shrinking job market.

“Many of my seniors from the university are still without jobs. I wonder if I’ll find one,” he says, adding: “I’d rather go abroad than waste my time here looking for a job that doesn’t exist. I don’t want to be part of the swelling pool of the unemployed in Pakistan. That is not what my parents have spent so much money for on my education.”

But not everyone is lucky enough to leave the country to find a job abroad. The majority can’t even dream of it and either becomes part of the growing pool of educated unemployed or settles down for the low-paid, low-quality jobs after failing to find an ‘option’ equal to their educational qualifications or skills.

Sajid Iftikhar had to settle for such a position after a year-and-a-half-long search for a ‘decent’ job in a bank or a private firm. However, it wasn’t the future his middle-class parents had imagined for him — an MBA in finance working as an accountant for a small customs clearing firm for Rs20,000 a month paid in cash. He himself is not sure if he should celebrate his first job or mourn the loss of time and money invested in his education.

He is not alone in this frustration; there are innumerable young, educated Pakistanis, who have specialised in certain fields but are either unemployed or have consented to work for much lesser salaries than they deserved or expected.

Youth unemployment and under employment has risen steeply during the last five years on the back of a slowing economy, which is not creating enough jobs to cater to an (unofficially) estimated 1.3 -1.5 million new entrants into the job market every year. Monis Rahman, Chairman of Naseeb Networks, which operates the country’s largest job website — ROZEE.PK — points out that there is a huge over-supply of job seekers relative to the number of jobs available. “Since 2008 we have received around 24m applications for 121,000 jobs advertised on our website. At least 20% of the applicants are fresh graduates, 70% are job hoppers looking for a better opportunity and 10% are unemployed,” he notes.

The major reason for the growing demand-supply gap in the job market, of course, remains the economic slowdown. “The economy has expanded at an annual average rate of below three per cent in the last five years on the back of drying private investment because of growing energy shortages, high cost of capital and deteriorating security conditions. This kind of growth rate is not enough for an economy to generate jobs to absorb such large number of new entrants into the job market,” notes a leading economist, who requested anonymity. “The economy must grow at a rate of six to eight per cent to absorb the number of new job seekers every year.”

The Labour Force Survey 2011 shows the unemployment soared to six per cent from 5.6% a year earlier. The unemployment rate increased in the urban areas from 7.2% to 8.8% but decreased marginally in the rural areas from 4.8% to 4.7%. This finding is in line with the flow of additional funds into the rural economy as a result of higher commodity prices and job losses in the urban areas, owing to industrial slowdown and rolling blackouts.

The survey depicts a very realistic picture of unemployment in the country that cannot be rejected out of hand. Economists agree that the survey’s estimates of the unemployment rate are not totally off the mark.

“We have a very large informal economy operating outside the government regulations and oversight, which is estimated to be as big in size as our officially reported economy of $210 billion. While the official economy has slowed down and lost its ability to create new jobs, the informal sector has thrived and generated jobs. But these are low-quality, low-paid jobs.”

Monis notes that there is also a mismatch between the jobs produced in the organised sector and the qualifications, training and skills being imparted to students at our educational and training institutions. “We are seeing a large unmet demand of highly skilled professionals which can be challenging to find even though many people are looking for jobs. At present, for example, there is a significant undersupply of software and mobile software programmers and an over-supply of accountants in the market compared to available job opportunities.”

Unless strategies to create productive and well-paid work opportunities are developed, the economy will continue to add people like Azhar to the pool of the unemployed or produce underemployed, working poor with jobs that allow people like Sajid to survive but not thrive.

Comments (18) Closed

janan Mar 31, 2013 12:45pm
This country of ours have everything name it but one thing....honest leadership. Once we have honest (Musalman) people serving this country we might not look into going abroad for seeking jobs. From last 60+ years we are governed by sick people who thinks they will not die to answer for there corruption. What we really need at this time ....fear of Allah in our hearts. Allah bless all of us (Amin)
Rashid Sultan Mar 31, 2013 12:47pm
More young people will come into the labour market in the next few years. Unemployment will rise and relative opportunities decrease creating disgrunteled young adults who will beome targets for the criminal underclass and terrorist outfits. Is there an answer to this malaise? Probably not. Politicians haven't a clue beyond their own wealth accumulation activities. Divert military spending to new infrastructure projects and maintenance to create civilian employment opportunities. Make peace with neighbouring country and adopt liberal and open trade, employment visa, and open borders policies so that our youth can seek out opportunities and prospects across the political divide.
AAK Mar 31, 2013 02:17pm
Over population... Over population... Over population... Need to bring in a one child policy ASAP
asad Mar 31, 2013 02:39pm
i think if you have a knowledge than there is jobs available if you have degree with no knowledge than you will struggle
Ghulam Ishaq Mar 31, 2013 03:44pm
Unemployment will only increase to horrible levels, thanks to religious sanctioned unabated reproduction
Sam Mar 31, 2013 04:30pm
Pakistan have the largest employment sector.Banks like UBL,HBL,MCB etc. are solid and very stable employers.If you got job in big employers like HBL,UBL etc. there jobs are mostly secure, permanent,stable and robust.
Sam Mar 31, 2013 04:32pm
Leaders are reflections of public.Do you wish somebody extra-ordinary to come from sky and lead this country (and make it ideal)?
ExPakistani Mar 31, 2013 06:29pm
What do you mean by "honest (Musalman) people"? I hope you do not mean religious leaders. They will take the nation to the depths of hell, if we are not already there.
Mohd. Aslam Mar 31, 2013 06:35pm
I fully agree with Janan. I just came back from Gulf and was astounded at the level of prosperity and the focus on being a good Musalman. We need to copy that.
Ali Hassan Mar 31, 2013 07:20pm
Close all universities and colleges which are not up to mark and only for minting money. Put some merit in Pakistani society.
Cyrus Howell Mar 31, 2013 08:29pm
Rising unemployment means slow economic growth. It is a double whammy because it means lower business investment and lower consumer spending.
Darshan Mar 31, 2013 11:12pm
Why only honest (Musalman) people, why not honest pakistani (who are inclusive of minorities which are not Musalman). This is another problem with general public here ??
Bilal Habib Apr 01, 2013 12:33am
The key to success is not education only, it is education + skill. Right now, the countries reeling after "Arab-spring" have huge rebuilding opportunities to offer. We need someone like Bhutto, who can export our youth for earning valuable foreign currency exchange for Pakistan. Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia have to develop in coming years, if we did not step-up, our neighbors will grab this golden opportunity.
VictimOfDemons-cracy Apr 01, 2013 01:07am
The reason to our condition is we support those who in return see us as slaves. We vote those who find it as an opportunity to plunder and loot our wealth, we fight our brother for their hidden evil designs, we trust them just to be deceived again, we waste our energy in assisting them to rule over us. If we have yet to understand their hidden agenda then this situation will get worse.
Bbbb Apr 01, 2013 01:13am
Does fear of Allah create jobs? You don't have to look far. Just look at the government of Islamic brotherhood, in Egypt, and the hoards of unemployed youth of Tableeghi Jamaat. Some people say that Zia ul Haq was also a very pious man.
Hatim S. Dabbawala Apr 01, 2013 04:48am
Salaams, A tip to success: A lesson learnt in early childhood; tis a lesson you should heed; Try Again - if at once you dont succeed; try again. Pakistan has potential and industry is looking for right individuals. This is true everywhere; its not a piece of cake getting a job in North America so lets not pack up bags and move to other parts of world. Please make a note !!! If you are good to show up; everyone would love to have you in team; so dont waste time in worrying - rather make a smart resume. Resume should not be an old Ration Card; it should speak of your value; ONCE called, be dressed up properly and face the challenge; FEEL as if all interviews are your LAST ONEs. You will get the right job my dear; What is missing is the Thirst !!! Create the thirst; Create the Burning Desire .... You will be booked soon. It 2000; I was hired when I sent a personal email to the CEO of - he liked the style; called me for an interview - and I was hired same moment. Believe me; you can do it ONLY if you want to do it. Allah helps those who help themselves. Lets not curse our destiny; lets identify our targets and achieve them one by one. Be Optimistic Always !!! If there were no problems in life ; then there would be no charm in achieving success.
Saad Apr 01, 2013 10:23am
Of course Monis Rehman's scam is that he harvests people's information from the CV's and uses it for marketing rubbish- this would never happen in any civilised country where there are data protection laws. I use rozee 3 years ago to help me find a job (it didn't)- and I still receive offers for discounted meals and other rubbish
Abdullah Apr 01, 2013 02:48pm
At cost of what? Reference Surah Al-baqarah verse no.278-279. Oh you who believe! Fear Allah and give up what remains of your demand for usury if you are indeed believers." "If you do not, take notice of war from Allah and his Messenger sallallahu alaihe wasallm but if you repent you shall have your capital sum. Deal not unjustly and you shall not be dealt with unjustly." Ahadith from Sahih Muslim Hazrat Jabir radiyallahu anhu has reported that the Messenger of Allah sallallahu alaihe wasallm cursed the devourer of usury, its payer, its scribe and its two witnesses. He also said that they were equal (in sin).