ISLAMABAD: As many as 4.5 million individuals are unemployed in the country, with the youth aged 15-24 having the highest unemployment rate of 11.1 per cent, according to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2023-24 released on Tuesday.

These figures are based on the 2020-21 Labour Force Survey, after which no employment survey has been conducted during the last three years, highlighting the apathetic attitude of the rulers towards such an important issue.

According to the survey, the total labour force stands at 71.8m — 48.5m in rural areas and 23.3m in urban areas.

The employed labour force is 67.3m: 45.7m rural and 21.5m urban, while 4.5m are unemployed. Moreover, the unemployment ratio is higher amongst females, with 14.4pc of women unemployed compared to 10pc men.

15-24 age group has highest unemployment rate of 11.1pc, followed by 7.3pc among 25-34 bracket

The 25-34 age group has the second-highest unemployment rate at 7.3pc, with 5.4pc of males and 13.3pc of females in this bracket unemployed.

This surplus labour availability further aggravates the situation for the youths as they are forced to wait for employment opportunities after entering the labour force. This restricts their learning opportunities, which could “lead to a rise in discouraged workers”, the survey suggests.

An important aspect of the employment structure in the country, as revealed in the survey, is that it has changed over the decades due to technological transformation. Previ­o­u­sly, the agriculture sector had been the m­ajor source of employment with a 37.4pc share.

However, the share of employment in the agricultural sector has shifted to the industrial and services sectors due to technological development. Now the services sector is the largest growing field of the economy.

According to the survey, a country’s capacity to generate employment depends upon its available resources, technological base and advancement, and institutional strategies. Similarly, human resources, skills, and technical competence determine the type of employment contributing to sustainable economic growth. Skill development is an important area to focus on to train the youth to meet the needs of changing market dynamics.

For this purpose, the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission’s (NAVTTC) strategic initiatives are reshaping the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) landscape, fostering skill development, and addressing systemic TVET challenges in Pakistan.

NAVTTC’s skill development-related initiatives and, most importantly, the Prime Minister’s Youth Skill Development Programme made substantial progress in Pakistan’s TVET landscape, creating a “robust, inclusive, and globally competitive workforce for sustainable national development”, the survey claims.

The youth skill initiative is a Rs4.9 billion programme for skill training in 39 IT, 53 industrial, and 34 hardcore skills, which currently enrols as many as 56,000 youths, the government claims.

The programme targets the domestic and international job market, especially for Saudi Arabia, the Gulf countries, the European Union, and far-eastern states like Japan and South Korea. The government is exploring overseas job opportunities to help reduce the unemployment burden on the economy and boost remittances.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2024

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