THE ILO finding that labour market recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, as in many other Asian and Pacific countries, lags considerably behind global levels, in spite of job growth in informal sectors and manufacturing during the last two years, must be a cause of concern for policymakers. A new ILO report points out that there was job growth in the Asia-Pacific region in 2021 and 2022, which was recovering from a 3.1pc decrease in employment in 2020. Yet a job gap of 22m persists, which, it is predicted, will increase to 26m next year, given the obstacles to growth in the current geopolitical global and regional context. More worrying for Pakistan, thus, is the fact that the domestic job market is again taking a serious hit due to slowing growth on the back of a massive currency crisis and this summer’s devastating floods, as well as the downward global economic spiral triggered by the Ukraine war and soaring energy and food prices. More job losses at a time when the labour market is yet to get back to pre-Covid levels can be politically risky for the ruling alliance led by the PML-N, and lead to unrest going forward.
It is indeed foolish to expect the Pakistani economy to swim against the global current. But the report clearly demonstrates that economies built on sound policies are much better placed to recover from the impact of shocks like the pandemic, mitigate the impact of climate-induced calamities like the super floods, and cope with an uncertain global environment. The Covid shock and the commodity price jolt that followed the pandemic have made the world realise that policies need continuous reform, and that governments should plan in advance to deal with such disruptions. It is time our policymakers also learnt their lesson and prepared the country for a future being shaped by climate change, globalisation and technology; it is a world where Covid-like shocks cannot be ruled out anymore.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2022