THE gripe never stops. “From our early school days we are told that a university degree is everything (to get a decent job). But it isn’t,” an irritated Abid Javed grumbled as he tossed a crumbled page of a newspaper away into the dustbin. “I got an MBA, but never got a steady job.”
Ever since Abid lost his second temporary job at a non-profit seven months back, he has spent most of his mornings poring over job listings in newspapers and on the internet, and sending out resumes to prospective employers. His evenings are spent giving tuitions. After all, he has to earn a livelihood. For sure, he isn’t the only one facing the situation. There are thousands of others like him and their number is growing pretty fast across Punjab.
“On an average 800 job seekers are competing with one another for every job we advertise on our portal. Jobs are available in the market, but not for everyone,” said Monis Rehman, who heads rozee.pk, the country’s largest job portal. But it cuts both ways, he added. “Finding the right person for the right price could be as problematic as finding the right job with the right salary.”
In the absence of reliable data, it is hard to analyse job market trends in Punjab. But the last two Labour Force Surveys (LFSs) show that the unemployment rate in urban Punjab is growing at a faster pace than in the rural areas, with the provincial unemployment rate being slightly above the national average of 5.9pc. Simultaneously, it shows that the provincial economy had added almost 300,000 jobs in 2014-15 in spite of a declining manufacturing sector.
However, economic experts and businessmen agree, the fact remains that the number of jobs being created is not enough to accommodate the tens of thousands entering the market every year. Additionally, the chunk of new jobs is being created mostly in the informal sector – construction, retail, distribution, services, etc.
“If unemployment hasn’t increased in Punjab despite industrial closures and layoffs – especially in the large-scale textile industry – over the last few years, it is because the unskilled or semi-skilled workers were accommodated against low-paid jobs in the informal sectors,” argued analyst Shahid Zia. Besides, he added, the significant increase in the provincial public sector development (PSD) spending had also helped create thousands of temporary blue-collar jobs.
On an average, 800 applicants are competing with one another for every job advertised on rozee.pk
Punjab’s growth strategy 2015-18 promised to create one million jobs every year, but has failed to achieve the target despite increasing public sector investment.
Abdul Basit, who owns a large processed poultry meat business, was of the view that the market was flooded with job seekers. “The economy’s ability to accommodate the growing number has significantly weakened over the last few years because of a declining manufacturing and agriculture sectors which are the largest employers of workforce in the province.”
“Public investment can do so much. It is private sector investment in manufacturing that creates quality jobs everywhere in the world. But investment in the sector in Punjab has substantially decreased. Private capital is flowing into real estate or flying out of the country. No one is prepared to invest his money in manufacturing because of government policies that discriminate against exports and vilify private business,” he argued.
“Agriculture, too, is beset by problems like water shortages and higher input costs. Farm productivity is lowest in the country compared with other regional economies. Unless we revive manufacturing and agriculture sectors and boost our exports, we will not be able to create quality jobs for our 1.5 million young individuals entering the provincial market every year.”
Till that happens, it seems, Abid and thousands like him would have to make do with their grumbles ... and, indeed, with their tuitions.
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2017