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Whither the jobs?

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The country’s job landscape has changed radically over the past two decades. Currently the accounting/finance, sales/marketing and ICT sectors are top job creators. However, hardly 5pc of total applicants actually succeed in landing a decent job.

Technological disruption, premature shrinkage of the manufacturing sector and demographic changes in an environment of an anaemic growth rate explained the chaos and overcrowding in the job market.

According to human resource practitioners, the unemployment rate is very high and Pakistan currently lacks the capacity to absorb about two million youth entering the already swarming job market every year.

While they do not have figures to back their claim, they estimate that the unemployment rate is at 15pc, three times higher than the current official rate of 5.2pc.

These experts stress that this issue has been ignored for too long and deserves the government’s immediate attention.

“Happenings around the world reaffirm that people care most for jobs. Be it Brexit or Trump’s triumph in the US, it was all about jobs in the end”, said an economist.


The country currently lacks the capacity to absorb about two million youth entering the already swarming job market every year


He argued that job creation in Pakistan is crucial for three key reasons: sustainability of peace and growth, expanding the constituency for democracy and gaining public support essential for success of the CPEC.

He pressed that poverty and social issues could not be dealt with satisfactorily without mainstreaming the idle work-force that was seeking employment. He thought concessions and direct petty cash transfers can at best provide a temporary relief.

“People wish for and deserved employment opportunities and jobs to lead a decent, dignified life. It would be wrong to assume that growth will necessarily improve the job situation. Rulers must remember voters’ verdict in India in 2004 when they turned the tables on BJP despite a steady GDP growth rate” a lady economist remarked.

Dr Aliya Khan, an economist with a keen eye on labour affairs, recently hammered the idea of valuing the human dimension of policy initiatives. She called to and I quote: “Development of a Labour Market Information and Analysis System (LMIAS), for the CPEC to integrate and mainstream the elements of labour market dynamics in this historic opportunity of Pak-China cooperation for the socio-economic uplift and development of the people of this region, in particular the large proportion of the male and female youth entering the labour market in search of decent and productive jobs”.

An informal survey revealed major distortions in the country’s labour market owing to misallocation, mistreatment and under-utilisation of precious human resource.

The situation, if allowed to persist, would compromise efforts directed to promote efficiency and fairness in the economic system. It would retard the pace of wealth generation and perpetuate income disparities in a society already divided beyond all perceivable ways.

“Pakistan is a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals that recognises the right to gainful employment to all and calls on governments to make labour market fair and free. Do we ever mean what we pledge?” asked a labour affairs expert.

In Pakistan the job-worker mismatch compromises the productivity potential of the economy and generates friction and frustration in youth. Workforce abundance has empowered employers to dictate terms. Weak governance allowed managements to flout labour laws at will.

Most officers contacted for comments referred to the Pakistan Labour Force Survey that projects the unemployment rate and trends in Pakistan on the basis of a survey of 47,000 people across the country.

According to an informed source associated with the Federal Bureau of Statistics the survey only treated respondents seeking a job and had not been able to find one as being unemployed. The rest were assumed to be employed.

It explains why the survey showed citizens in the age band of 65 years and above, almost cent per cent employed (0.16pc unemployed) with greater employment in old women (0.05pc unemployed). Unemployment was highest in the age band of 15-19 at 1.26pc but girls were luckier as their unemployment rate was stated to be 0.33pc in the same age bracket.

The labour force in the survey referred to all citizens of 10 years of age or over. When contacted over phone a senior officer, who wished not to be identified, told Dawn that internationally accepted definitions were used since the data was consistently used by multilateral agencies as well.

According to the survey, agriculture employs 43.7pc of the workforce, 33.9pc are absorbed by the service sector and 22.4pc by the industry.

Monas Rahman, CEO and founder of Rozee, a match-making online portal for the labour market, found an official 5.2pc unemployment rate grossly understated.

“For about a thousand new jobs advertised on this one portal daily, about 40,000 people apply”, he said, substantiating his perception of a wide supply demand gap.

“Pakistan is an employers’ market because of a widening supply and demand gap. What bargaining position can anyone have when there are teeming millions waiting outside the gate ready to replace you for half the pay”, remarked an observer.

“The delusional policymakers can’t hide behind the official unemployment rate for good”, said another observer.

Unfortunately politicians, across the political divide, talk of merit in recruitment but indulge in nepotism unabashedly.

“Government jobs and posting are used by power wielders to reward their relatives/loyalists without any regard to merit, or sold for a high price beyond the affordability of the common man. The running rate for a police constable in Sindh is Rs600,000”, commented a bitter retired bureaucrat.

Some concerned high ranking officials talked of contempt in the private sector towards workers. “The moment one tries to raise issues related to the labour force, company heads close ranks to resist. They consider it an assault on the free market ideology and an expression of ‘socialist bend’ in the government”, he said.

Published in Dawn, Business & Finance weekly, February 13th, 2017


Comments (31) Closed



Ismail Feb 13, 2017 07:54am

In an age of de-globalization the first world is no longer willing to absorb the heaving masses of the third world. That being said the policy of our country to just keep exporting manpower across the planet will face diminishing yield. It is essential that our business sector promotes homegrown innovation, supporting small and medium enterprises, and small scale industrial growth. Importing everything is not in our interests. I'd like to see a Pakistani Trump who says Pakistan First.

Something Fishy Feb 13, 2017 08:18am

There is dearth of 'good' candidates in every filed, from a driver to sales manager, every where in the country, from Lahore to Karachi. I say it with personal experience over past 10 years. But there is so much unemployment! And the unemployed ones behave as if they are the kings!

Kumar Feb 13, 2017 09:01am

It will be a challenge for developing economies like India and Pakistan with huge population to keep unemployment at minimum. God bless both of us

nizamuddin Ahmad Aali Feb 13, 2017 09:14am

Lot of verbiage loaded with number & figures. In reality the hiring is done in Pakistan before the job is advertised. This has been the main reason for incompetent workforce in Pakistan ans failure of small business. Look no further than government hiring of superior and middle management jobs in provincial & federal governments. Influence peddling quotas are the main culprits. If one has certain last names in different part of Pakistan which corresponds with the region, the right names will likely be the desireable candidate. Sadly we never talk about faith based hiring which is very common in Pakistan. Solution of the evils mentioned above is to increase the jobs by business loan money accessible for small businesses. Unfortunately banking sector is also corrupt in Pakistan. Most of the successful democracies small businesses have allocated money guaranteed by the government. The rules very strict but every person gets the same chance and not the industrialists with connection.

nizamuddin Ahmad Aali Feb 13, 2017 09:31am

This is no rocket science that jobs are directly related to number of manufacturing and service industry. More the factories and service company there will be more jobs. It needs skilled workers and money to run an enterprise. Karachi for example with huge population do not have good fully equipped car and truck repair shops. Fully automated dry and wet cleaning shops do not exists with the exception of only one second or third rate chain. Can any one find mobile & fully equipped plumber and carpenter. The answer is NO. We have to do a lot to make our country affluent and progressive. Right now the thieves have a better chance of success by taking bribes and hustling. So called experts and analysts have not built the western countries. The skilled labor and farmers is to be credited.

saudagar ( indian) Feb 13, 2017 10:44am

to be frank pakistan will be smoothly sailing on jobs issue than india , though modi ji has promised crores of jobs per year the initiatives to bear fruits is taking time , i hope CPEC creates millions of jobs direct and indirect for my neighbour nation, we indians also need to create more entrepreneurs who will hire workforce tackling automations,

AHA Feb 13, 2017 11:13am

A properly designed training is key to any candidate's readiness for the job. Unfortunately we don't have a focus or process to address this. There are not enough institutes and no proper review to upgrade training and contents. Some of our courses are good for nothing and outdated.

AHA Feb 13, 2017 11:14am

Our service Industry is of size $2.5B and India's is 60 times more than us $150B. You can understand why we don't have jobs.

Ali mastan Feb 13, 2017 12:34pm

CPEC will provide Jobs at least 5 million youths by 2020

TRUMPOFINDIA Feb 13, 2017 12:51pm

@saudagar ( indian) your comment is actually targeting more likes from Pakistan friends..but unfortunately very far from the reality.

Amer Feb 13, 2017 12:54pm

Job selection is Not based on merit or educational background. Shifarish or source is needed to get a job.

D.K. PAMNANI Feb 13, 2017 12:57pm

Do not make assumptions that CPEC will create a job. CPEC will create a job for the Fiters,welders, IV class employees and not for engineering students. Chinese will deploy their own management/executives for CPEC. China will never depend on Pakistani educated youths. So do not give more work of China, instead I as an Indian suggest that Pakistani Companies should be awarded the work so that Pakistan youth could be employed.

Himmat Feb 13, 2017 01:07pm

Probably youth is eying the job where they get good money with less effort. Nobody will be interested in farming, carpenter or plumber or a building labourer which demands hard labour.

Imtiaz Feb 13, 2017 01:17pm

Pakistan's average schooling per person is just 4 year, almost the lowest in the world. Skills come with science education and with it production. Being agricultural / religious / tribal culture we are shy of science and feel more comfortable with rhetoric. We, like almost all Muslim countries missed the industrial revolution of 70 years ago.

Western and oil rich countries, wealth fund managers have trillions to invest abroad in industry in third world with skills. If we display proven skills, investment will automatically come our way resulting in jobs and prosperity.

We need to improve our school curriculum to secular international reducing religious content to half the present one and optional only at that. Science content needs to be quadrupled and mandatory.

Now that we have nuclear deterrent, defence budget maybe reduced by 30% and diverted to education sector which is just peanuts at present.

Syed Farrukh Feb 13, 2017 01:39pm

Well research and well done, but the actual figure I think that much higher than shown here, as my survey and search the population only in Karachi is more than 30 Million in which 3 million youth are still sitting idly or making money by criminal activities, the criminal feeders are offering them 40K jobs but government is giving them nothing

Talha Feb 13, 2017 01:48pm

There may be certain short term solutions to unemployment in Pakistan but I would like to think of one possible long term based solution. The fact is that there is too much pressure on Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad to accommodate the educated youth. We need more planned cities which is what we should focus on. My parents shifted to Islamabad from Karachi in 80s when there were only a few job opportunities in the capital city. Today Islamabad has head offices of multinational companies and other businesses with many more jobs than the 80s. We need at least one planned city in each of the provinces which would help share the employment load in the years to come.

TirahWall Feb 13, 2017 02:00pm

Emergency based solution(to accommodate youth) : 1: decrease Retirement age limit to 50 years and ban on 2nd job especially govt ( these people can start business with savings, 2: high duty on import especially on stuff that can easily be made in Pak. incentives for local industries 3: tough criteria for first family members of one serving at highly paid position at govt services, curb nepotism. ( Justice to the unprivileged class).( even ban in govt jobs if many from one family are govt employees) Long Run: population control, all possible measures for high export & low import etc.

Talha Feb 13, 2017 01:58pm

Another reason for unemployment is that our higher education is more based on outdated academic concepts than making students learn and experience modern professional practices and that is the case in even premier business schools - a fact which is of grave concern in today's digital landscape. Recruitment teams generally seek experience for most jobs which most fresh graduates lack and can't be blamed for not having. This problem can be solved if universities start focusing on experiential learning with greater emphasis on internships and capstone projects than traditional testing of students' memory.

Ashraf Feb 13, 2017 02:31pm

Cpec will create jobs for the whole world

Umair Ansari Feb 13, 2017 02:58pm

This would happen if the money would go in corruption by illiterate and uneducated who ultimately will use it in useless spendings rather than investing which would lead to waste of resources, less investments, lack of growth, unemployment, uncompetitiveness and thus the lower middle class and the lower will suffer. Educated class must be given interest-free loans by Govt. to put good wisdom in business.

Amna Feb 13, 2017 03:35pm

@D.K. PAMNANI You're absolutely right. CPEC may create jobs for skilled labour, but there is little to no space for graduates. Islamabad is now inundated with Chinese offices (who all employ Chinese people) and has an ever-growing Chinese population. The government is more than happy to hand contracts to Chinese investors in the name of FDI.

Dr BN Anand Feb 13, 2017 04:02pm

Sir, indeed it is very alarming to know the unemployment rate is much higher than official figures. That become ev n more alarming that the unemployed are. Mostly youth of the country. This unemployment can be because of many reasons, I.e. lack of industrial growth because of lack of FDI, lack of skills among the youth and also may be lack of exposure to modern fields where opportunities for employment may be available. Pakistan has to focus on growth of the country to create jobs. This youth work force is a double edged weapon, it can make the country if properly used and also breed restlessness among the public youth if not not properly utilised

KHALID YOUSAFZAI (UK) Feb 13, 2017 05:53pm

because the political structure have NO SENSE AND ARE FEELINGLESS for the youth. The leaders are busy in their ownselves. Why should they care for youth.

Alba Feb 13, 2017 06:25pm

Why are we even asking that question? The answer is that it is a mathematical impossibility for the government of Pakistan and businesses to provide enough jobs.

Raheel Feb 13, 2017 06:55pm

The solution is national policies to support/train youth on entrepreneurship. In developed economies small and medium companies create more jobs annually then established/large companies. Pakistan is capable to build an ideal entrepreneur's environment.

my Comments Feb 13, 2017 07:43pm

Lacking industrial growth and commerce. Manpower is there but lacking skills to keep up with required trades and professional ability. Planners responsible for economic growth need to pay attention to public needs, rather keeping busy making money all the time.

Arsalan Feb 13, 2017 08:39pm

How about finding the quality resources? Our universities aren't producing quality resources even ICT sector.

mars Feb 14, 2017 12:26pm

This unemployment is because of insincere government. Many students are willing to job soon after completing their studies but the MONSTERS siting at the top level are vulnerable . Its hopeless, no one ready to take step.....

mars Feb 14, 2017 12:30pm

@Arsalan right

engr. muhammad ismail Feb 14, 2017 06:41pm

@ismail you are right

Sameer Feb 15, 2017 06:50am

@Ali mastan we'll sre about. Anyway where are the 150k jobs promised by the gov on release of 4g spectrum?