Tuesday April 16, 2024

Enrichment of human resource must for equitable, sustained growth

By Mansoor Ahmad
May 10, 2018


LAHORE: Enrichment of human resource, eradication of poverty and gender balance are the three issues that are interrelated and need to be tackled on priority by the next elected government to ensure equitable and sustained growth.

Pakistan’s economy remains locked in mediocre growth and increasing inequality. To help break that cycle, federal and provincial governments should cut funding at college and university level, and redirect resources and students into vocational programmes.

Majority of Pakistanis are living on the edge of poverty because women have been left out of the economic mainstream. The country is host to a large percentage of working poor.

Working poor are those that have got a job or are self employed but do not earn enough to fulfil the minimum basic needs of their families. Even the minimum wage that has been increased to Rs15,000 per month is not enough to fulfil basic needs of an average family size of 6.5 persons.

They earn less because they lack proper skills, most are uneducated as well. It is worth noting that there is mostly one bread earner in a family, where 50 percent of the working age men are in active employment while only 16 percent of the women are employed.

It is ironical that the skilled workforce in Pakistan faces a cultural stigma where a university graduate is more respected than a trained motor mechanic. This is despite the fact that the motor mechanic may end up earning far more than most of the graduates who rarely find a suitable job.

Despite this reality, about 8 percent of the young generation between the ages of 17-23 go for higher education, while only 1.5 percent in age group of 14-16 years joins technical and vocational institutes. We have to engage the remaining 90 percent of the youth in skill training. Most of them have low education and no skill, which can turn them into fodder for the extremist as they will not get any respectable work without skills.

The planners must realise that poverty reduction strategy should ensure that the poor attain the ability to go about without shame. There is a need to emphasise the importance of dignity, respect and freedom from humiliation and respect in the society.

The integrated approach should ensure physical safety, focusing on security from violence to property and person, and perceived violence that is usually not available to the poor.

Growth will come if the human resource is enriched with skills and health.

Informal work represents tremendous degree of abuse of working class. Majority of workers in informal work worldwide as in Pakistan are women.

These workers are exploited economically as well as socially. Women workers employed particularly in informal sectors do not have any legal or social protection.

These include agricultural workers, rag-pickers, construction workers, home-based workers, domestic workers or helps, street vendors or sellers, part-time workers. Formal employment has been structured in a manner that discourages women and favours men who do not have to do household work.

For formal work women have to cover long distances that are time consuming and makes it impossible for them to attend to their own.

The economy has the potential to engage large number of women in apparel making. Stitching is a skill, preliminary knowledge of which is possessed by almost all girls and women in poor families.

It is unfortunate that in past two decades (the same period when Bangladesh and Vietnam emerged in textiles) 90 percent of the investment in textiles was made in basic textiles and nominal in garments and knitwear.

Bangladesh established 3,000 garment making units in the last 25 years. All are in exports and 90 percent of the workers are women.

Pakistan’s so called textile economy has only 300 exporting units dominated by male workers.

The future thrust should be on establishing garment factories near villages with intent to employ women. This will reduce the gender gap, empower women and reduce poverty.