How many people are employed in the country’s formal and non-formal sectors?
How many people in the country are unemployed or employed on short-term contracts?
The answer to these questions is big ‘no’ or ‘know ’ for neither formal nor structured data is available on the latest unemployment rate. This is what the Pakistan Economic Survey of 2017-2018 states, which is responsible for coming up with such data in the country. The last know figure about unemployment was 5.9 per cent for the year 2014-2015.
There is no data on jobs or joblessness for 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. In the absence of data, how can policymakers make good policies?
In the last five years, there has been a lot of economic progress in the country. Despite the economic growth trajectory recorded in the past five years, the level of unemployment has been rising. People are losing jobs and facing troubles. There is need to bridge the gap between employers and skilled persons, implement skill development schemes and self-employment programmes. The Punjab government set up the first ever job placement center, designed to facilitate and provide career counseling to job-seekers.
Independent economists question the official data on unemployment. According to Dr Hafiz Pasha, who wrote an article in Business Recorder, the rate of joblessness as per reported in the Household Integrated Survey of 2015-16 is almost nine per cent.
He says that according to the Labour Force Survey of 2014-15, the rate of unemployment is six per cent as per reported by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. The contradiction in number leads to suspicions towards the data generated by the government data. The youth unemployment went up from 6.5 per cent in 2007 to 9.1% in 2015 as was mentioned in the National Human Development Report.
According to Dr Pasha, in urban centres, the level of unemployment is especially high among females and highly educated workers. He explains it further with an example that 20pc of the youth labour with post-graduate qualifications is without jobs.
The population in 10 major cities has increased by 74.8% as was reported in the latest Population Census comparing with the last census was held, which shows the significant movement of people from rural to urban areas in search of jobs and opportunities.
To control this migration of people, the government has taken an initiative for rural economy in the planning commission to promote sustainable and inclusive growth across the countryside. But the incursion of job-seekers in Karachi continues, especially from rural Sindh. He stressed policymakers to focus on living standards of the teeming millions regardless on economic growth that measures national income. To resolve unemployment, evolve an indigenous egalitarian model for economic development.
There are various reasons which cause the problem of the unemployed or underemployed labour force at a critical level. Information and communication technology, information technology and a cheaper labour contract system cut costs and improve productivity by shedding labour in a drive for mainstream economic activity.
Not enough jobs are being created for the youth force for the reasons there are minor investments in greenfield projects that provide more jobs than the consolidation of businesses. Meanwhile, Chinese workers and experts are competing with Pakistani labour in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor projects leaving a little room for their Pakistani counterparts.
There has been no policy in place to produce enough jobs for the quality of economic growth. Creating jobs is becoming an art or science but unfortunately, job creation has turned into a global problem, so this issue should be seen from a broader perspective of a transforming world.
To work for the common good, the elitist economic model needs a strong egalitarian bias. The concept of public welfare was deeply entrenched whereas the traditional welfare state is withering away even in the developed economies of Europe.
In all, the Concept of Sustainable Development Goals, which is the best substitute that has so far surfaced at the international level, needs to be taken up. With the SDGs concept, individuals are empowered to earn their livelihood and empowered communities to resolve their problems in a fast-changing economic environment.
SDGs have to be a joint project of the state, business, and active citizenry to achieve the targeted goals. A resolution supporting the SDGs was passed by Parliament and the National Assembly also has set up an SDGs Centre.
At the federal level and in Punjab, similar centers have also been established. The process of setting up of such units in other provinces is underway reported in last year’s economic survey. But no progress is seen in this year’s survey.
It seems that policymakers’ commitment to SDGs is very weak. The involvement of political parties creating troubles in the implementation of the SDG because they have their own benefits and no interest in the social welfare, is leading us to the lack of creativity in the development of economic science.
Here, a relevant quote from a recent article in The Economist is apt to be stated: “Economics enjoys greater influence over policy than other social sciences. Striking new finds are published by researchers and their institutions, promoted by like-minded interest groups and politicians and amplified by social media.
“Conflicting results and corrections are often ignored. It is wise to be skeptical about a single result.”
Policymakers in Pakistan should focus on the living standards of the teeming millions regardless of economic growth that measures national income. To resolve the problem of unemployment evolve an indigenous egalitarian model for economic development and tackle accumulating issues in public welfare.