The first success that we have achieved after presenting the PTI’s 100-day plan is that a debate has started for the first time in the country’s history about job creation, its importance and what can be achieved in this regard.
Therefore, we have been successful in our attempt to make jobs a centerpiece of economic conversation in the country. Let’s examine where the 10-million target comes from, why it is important and how we plan to achieve it.
First of all, let’s start with why creating 10 million jobs in five years is our target. According to estimates provided by economists, approximately two million additional youth are looking for employment opportunities every year. Hence, it is estimated that 10 million youth will be entering the job market and looking for employment opportunities in the next five years.
Now, that we know that 10 million youth will require employment opportunities in the next five years, let’s consider what the role of the state should be in creating these job opportunities. Article 38 of the constitution states that the “state shall provide for all citizens, within the available resources of the country, facilities for work and adequate livelihood”. It is, therefore, our constitutional responsibility to do our best to create job opportunities for the 10 million youth who will enter the job market in the next five years. Those arguing against setting the target of 10 million jobs are, therefore, saying that we should plan for increased unemployment. What civilised country plans to increase unemployment?
In addition to the constitutional obligation, the youth population of Pakistan can become its biggest asset and the creator of economic value if it is given the right skills, education and merit-based productive employment opportunities. Meanwhile, if we don’t do that, this youth dividend can also become our biggest challenge, with drastic economic and social consequences. There should be no debate about whether we need to target the creation of these 10 million jobs. The only debate should be about how best to achieve this aim.
Now, let’s examine who will create these jobs. The primary engine of growth and job creation is the private sector of any country. Therefore, a vast majority of these jobs will be created in the private sector through the facilitative policy of the government, which encourages them to expand their business and make investments that create jobs. The private sector is currently over-regulated and over-taxed, and, more importantly, not treated as an equal stakeholder in economic decision-making. We have to realise that the government’s role is to create a business and investor-friendly environment and make investments in supportive human and physical capital.
Let’s focus on how these jobs will be created. The first step of engaging and incentivising the private sector has already been explained. The second key ingredient is to target sectors that are job-intensive and consistent with our economy’s comparative advantage. Evidence-based research shows that sectors of the economy that have the most potential to create new jobs are manufacturing (SMEs), construction, and tourism and social services (education and health).
This research is based on an International Labour Organization (ILO) report titled ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2015’. The recommendations of the PTI’s policy are also aligned with the recommendations of a report issued in 2018 by the Pakistan Business Council (PBC), which is titled ‘Made in Pakistan’.
Some of the key ingredients of the policies which incentivise investment in these sectors and the creation of the desired jobs will be: reducing input costs by lowering the tax burden on key inputs like energy; providing tax incentives for new investments in key sectors; addressing the access-to-finance issues of the priority sectors; and resolving the liquidity problems of businesses by ending the practice of withholding refunds/rebates to hide the fiscal deficit.
Other ingredients include heavy investment in skills training and technical education universities by engaging world-class institutions as partners;
giving the private sector a seat on the decision-making table as members of the business council, which is to be chaired personally by the prime minister; and marketing Pakistan as an investment and tourism destination and a preferred trade partner, with a focused campaign that is to be run in a public-private partnership
Efforts should also be made to reach out to overseas Pakistanis in particular to utilise their knowledge and expertise as well as investment capital to play a pivotal role in the economic turnaround of Pakistan. The social sector should be made a priority for government investments, particularly in health and education. The full potential of the green economy should be utilised to not just safeguard our environment but to also create meaningful employment and investment opportunities.
Detailed policies for these actions and the priority sectors are being developed. A textile policy has already been issued and others will follow in the coming weeks.
We as a nation owe our future generation an opportunity to earn a respectable livelihood and become productive partners in creating a prosperous Pakistan. Let’s consider the constitutional obligation placed upon us as an objective worth striving for rather than mere rhetoric. When the Pakistani nation sets its mind on achieving something and striving for it in a united manner, it can achieve what may seem to be very difficult or even impossible – like we did by becoming a nuclear power despite opposition from the global powers.
Pakistanis should guide us on how best to provide an honourable livelihood to all our citizens and put the country on the path to sustainable prosperity. After all, this country belongs to its more than 200 million citizens, not just to a few families.
The writer is a member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.