Are Imran and Zardari showing voters a mirage with their jobs promises?

The parties are in no position to deliver on what they have promised, at least in a meaningful way.
Published June 25, 2018

An editor of a paper once published an editorial saying that half of the city’s population is insane.

Needless to say, there was a bit of an uproar.

The editor had no choice but to run a correction.

The next day, the correction read: Half of the city’s population isn’t insane.

The difference, of course, was the same, but a slight twist of semantics meant that it went unnoticed.

What happened recently in Pakistani politics was rather similar.

In his 100 Day plan, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan promised the creation of 10 million jobs over the next five years if his party came to power.

Not to be outdone, Pakistan People’s Party’s Asif Zardari promised one government job for each family without a member in government service.

The PTI was ridiculed on social media and by other parties for making such a tall promise; however, Zardari, who actually made a much bigger claim, was spared the derision.

One can assume that this was due to a simple contextual change of arithmetics by Zardari that made his promise sound more realistic.

The fact is that both parties appear to be ignorant of the state of Pakistan’s economy and its capacity to generate these many jobs in such a short period of time.

After debt servicing, expenditure on defence and general administration, the government’s leftover budget is not sufficient for Pakistan’s development ambitions.

Contrast and compare

The population of Pakistan is 207.8 million. It has 32.2 million households, with average household size of 6.5 as per the 2017 census.

If they are to deliver on their claims, the PTI must must create one job per 21 residents. The PPP, for its part, has bigger mountain to climb: creating one job per six residents.

PPP’s job target for the next five years is 3.25 times higher than that of the PTI’s.

Even though Zardari promised jobs for those households that don't already have a member in government service, the overall figures for the PPP won't be much different since state jobs, including armed forces, don't make up large enough portion of the total jobs in Pakistan to be of arithmetical consequence in this scenario.

These projections are based on last year's census data. With the passage of the next five years, the numbers are only expected to increase — along with the job targets.

Let’s break it down even more: for every other minute, the PTI must create four jobs; the PPP: 12

This means that, every hour for the next five years, the PTI must create 228 jobs and the PPP, 735 jobs.

And I am sure that both parties are aware that job creation warrants a transparent procedure of advertisement, competition, tests, interviews, administrative routines and approvals.

In case of government services, medical examination from services hospitals and police verification and the rest are added tasks.

How are these parties going to manage this Herculean task for which the state machinery simply isn’t prepared? Are jobs Manna from heaven?

Disguised unemployment

45 percent of Pakistan’s existing labour force works on agricultural farms. The glaring issue is that no decent increase in productivity has occurred over time while labour has been added to existing agriculture workforce. This results in disguised unemployment.

Disguised unemployment occurs when land’s productivity/yield is constant and more labour is added, which means additional labour has nothing to contribute in terms of productivity. This additional labour is unemployed in the disguise of family ‘employment’ on farms.

The statistics don’t factor this form of unemployment, which means that actual unemployment in the country is higher than what’s reported. If the parties are to take into account disguised unemployment, the size of their task will be even bigger.

Instead of empty election-time rhetoric, both PTI and PPP should think seriously about the existing issues and their solutions. They are in no position to deliver on what they have promised, at least in a meaningful way. Voters don’t deserve to be shown a mirage.

Header illustration by Zoha Bundally

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