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Developing human capital: solution to the economic woes of Pakistan

Prime Minister Imran Khan while speaking at the launching ceremony of the ‘Pakistan Banao Certificate’ talked about the poor state of the economy and urged the eight million overseas Pakistanis to help strengthen the economy of Pakistan through their contribution.

Pakistan with the population of 208 million people has one of the youngest populations in the world accounting for over 60 percent of the total population under the age of 35 years. This opportunity has been squandered in the past by not concentrating on the skill development and professional education in Pakistan as such. Out of eight million overseas Pakistanis, at least three quarters work as blue-collar workers. Major chunk of the overseas Pakistanis works in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Prime Minister Imran Khan needs to ensure great focus on the skill development and the professional education in Pakistan during his tenure, which could bring about speedy economic recovery. Currently, Indians, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Bengalis and Filipinos are preferred to Pakistanis for employment in various countries. This needs immediate attention of the concerned authorities. There are multifarious reasons for this preference; one of them being skills of the workers.

As per the World Bank data, international migrants send $600 billion to their families in their home countries. Pakistanis are working by and large in four continents i.e. Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. A whopping increase was witnessed by the Pakistanis moving abroad between 2005 and 2010 for employment opportunities. There are around one and a half million Pakistanis in the United Kingdom and more than two million each in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. USA has also got a substantial Pakistani-descent population. Foreign remittances have witnessed surge over the period of last decade in Pakistan. In 2009, Pakistan received $9 billion through foreign remittances which has doubled over the period of one decade. Pakistan receives around $20 billion every year through remittances contrary to India which receives $72 billion, China $64 billion and the Philippines over $30 billion. The outward remittances from GCC countries are around $100 billion a year where the share of Pakistan is around $13 billion a year.

 

Human capital of any country comprises the resources such as all the knowledge, talents, skills, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, and wisdom possessed by its citizens. Pakistan’s priority at this juncture must be the development of the human capital. Human capital generates wealth for an economy. Earnings in the labor market depend upon the employees’ information and skills. Pakistan could get up to $35 billion a year through remittances in a couple of years provided that the incumbent government works on the needed skills and education. So-called skills development institutions have not yielded the results as expected and they need an overhaul sooner rather than later.

The Consul General of Qatar in Karachi Mishal M. Al Ansari said last week that his country would recruit 100,000 Pakistanis by issuing work visa in all sectors and fields soon. Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, in a meeting with Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September last year offered 100,000 jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers from Pakistan. There are already around 150,000 Pakistanis working in Qatar.

The debate is how much money each Pakistani makes working abroad compared to other expats in that particular country. Skilled and professionally qualified individuals may, for instance, make substantial amount of money compared to unskilled laborers. An estimated figure suggests that an unskilled or semi-skilled Pakistani worker makes less than one thousand US dollars per month vis-à-vis a qualified professional i.e. accountant, engineer, doctor etc. who could make more than ten thousand US dollars per month.

Even talking about the much-trumpeted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the critic do mention that majority of Pakistanis would end up doing trivial jobs compared to the Chinese.

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