THE government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa does not have the numbers to determine the current unemployment rate in the province, and it depends entirely on the federal Labour Force Survey (LFS) 2014-15 for keeping an eye on employment trends.
According to circumstantial evidence, however, a lot of people are now getting jobs in KP each day in the informal economy, especially in the growing services sector. As per the LFS, the unemployment rate in the province was 7.2pc, which is higher than the national average of 5.9pc. Ironically, data available with the KP Bureau of Statistics is mostly outdated with a time lag of more than two years in all areas of development indicators.
Interviews with officials reveal that the government still remains the major employer. There are more than 19 universities in the public sector and thousands of graduates and post-graduates coming out each year have swelled the already alarming high number of unemployed youth.
Culturally, people in KP prefer even a low-scale government job over the more lucrative jobs in the private sector. “The current account deficit is on the rise mainly because of the appointment of grade four employees by elected representatives in their constituencies,” one official said.
As per official data, there are 389,024 regular government employees in the province. According to a senior official in the Finance department, more than 35,000 jobs were alone created in Health and Education departments in the last couple of years. Other departments where jobs have been created are Local Government and Police.
In the energy sector, 56,430 jobs were created in recent years, while another 143,570 will be ready at the completion of projects in hand.
CPEC is another area people and the authorities alike are looking forward to in terms of job-creation. The CEO of the KP Economic Zone Development and Management Company (EZDMC), Mohsin M. Syed, said 100,000 new jobs are estimated in the next three years in CPEC-inspired special economic zones.
Besides, he added the government has awarded 12 licences for the establishment of new cement factories. Each factory employs 3,000 directs employees and provides jobs to 15,000 people indirectly. “We are expecting 216,000 jobs when all these factories go into operation,” he said.
Official data of the Industries department shows that the Agriculture sector, followed by the Services sector, were the main employment providers in the rather feeble private sector of the province. Agriculture engages more than 50pc of the KP labour force.
It is estimated that around 100,000 new jobs will be created in the province over the next three years in CPEC-inspired special economic zones
According to an official document of the Finance department, there are 2,881 industrial units of which 2,192 are operational. The government is trying to provide employment opportunities through the revival of the Industrial sector, and in this regard 40 new units are being commissioned.
However, another document compiled by the KP Directorate of Labour, the number of registered industrial units in the province was 1,083 until December 2016, employing 58,638 individuals. Due to the closure of 331 units during the same period, 22,291 lost their jobs.
Away from the conventional avenues, increasing number of people are opting for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and self-employment in the form of small businesses, like coaching centres, net cafes, computer training centres, poultry farms, restaurants, small IT-based ventures, transport sector and retail etc.
Besides, university graduates in reasonable numbers have started to move out to other parts of the country or to eye the Gulf and the Middle East for decent jobs.
The one area where KP has done more than the other provinces is to provide maximum legal protection to industrial workers. Since the devolution of the Labour department to the provinces, KP has promulgated 12 new legislations to extend maximum relief to workers in the province.
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2017