Nov 21 - 27, 20

Human resource development (HRD) refers to the enhancement of the skills, knowledge and competencies of the workforce so that they can contribute meaningfully to the national development process.

Pakistan Competitiveness Report 2009 ranked HRD as the 6th critical barrier out of 15 in doing business in the country. Graduates of training institutions are not meeting the demand. The lack of suitably qualified people is an impediment to delivery of quality products and services. The Bank's Infrastructure Implementation Capacity Assessment revealed that 67 per cent of stakeholders believed that human resource issues posed a significant constraint to the implementation of large infrastructure projects in Pakistan. Clients, consultants and contractors unanimously identified the lack of suitable qualified people as an impediment to implementation. A majority of firms find themselves in an equilibrium characterized by low availability of skills, low productivity and poor technology adoption.

Government every now and then introduces poverty reduction strategies, but never includes education as their agenda for reducing poverty. Such a strategy requires certain types of human resources (labour demand side) which must be supplied through the education and training system (labour supply side).

In many instances, the education and training policies have not been designed to meet the demands of the labour market; hence there has been a charge of a mismatch or a dysfunctional education and training system.

According to the government annual plan, the estimated population of the country was 177.1 million by June 2011 and the labour force participation rate 33 per cent. As per the labour force survey 2009-10, the labour force is estimated at 58.4 million.

Of the total labour force, males constitute 45.1 million (77 per cent), whereas females are 13.3 million (23 per cent). Of the total labour force, 55.2 million are employed, while remaining 3.2 million persons, who constitute 5.6 per cent of the labour force, are unemployed. Out of total unemployed persons, males are two million (61 per cent), while females are 1.2 million (39 per cent). The annual plan said that around six per cent GDP growth is required to absorb the growing labour force and to maintain the unemployment level of 2010-11.

The higher rates of population growth and subsequent lower rate of labour force growth emerge as one of the major challenge for HRD. These high levels of unemployment reflect the underdevelopment of the skills, knowledge and talents of the labour force and the under-utilisation of human energies and skills.

Although the government is the single largest employer of persons in the region, the private sector accounts for the largest percentage of employed. However, the creation of job opportunities has been one of the greatest labour market challenges facing the government.

Various development strategies and policies have been implemented to generate employment for the available labour force: infrastructural development and public works, agricultural diversification, import substitution industrialization, nationalization, economic integration and export promotion (especially tourism, financial and information services). However, these strategies and policies have been only moderately successful, as high rates of unemployment still persists.

Access to education and training is still limited in Pakistan. There's a wide disparity between male-female, rural-urban, and different regions. Not even four percent of the total population enters into higher education and less than one percent of the population in the age range 10 years and above has ever received technical education and vocational training.

One of the major reasons is relatively limited resources have been allocated to overall education sector. In 1960, public expenditure on education was only 1.1 percent of the GNP; by 2011, the figure is barely crossing three percent.

It is observed that unemployment tends to be low or non-existent among those with tertiary level or university education especially renowned university students. Professional, technical and managerial occupations exhibit low or zero levels of unemployment, reflecting the degree of scarcity of such skilled persons. The bulk of the unemployed (mainly middle or metric pass students of specifically rural areas and Madrasah system) generally indicate that their usual or standard occupation is related to, 'elementary production' and general production. Sometime the long spells of unemployment can result in the depreciation of the little skills possessed by the unemployed, hence making them unemployable in the formal labour market.

The greatest problem in Pakistan's labour market is the mismatch between the supply and the demand of labour. While the economy is moving towards sophisticated sectors such as telecommunications, information technology, oil and gas, financial services, engineering goods, universities and colleges are churning out hundreds of thousands of graduates in arts, humanities and languages. The challenges in matching the supply and demand of the labour market, in addressing the existing skills gap and improving the quality of the existing labour force. One of the main reasons is lack of qualified and expert's resource persons.

There are millions of youth preparing for entry into the labour market and millions of employers in the domestic and foreign labour markets. Training and education are prime ingredients in the process of creating jobs for unemployed class and generating growth, as well as in improving the capacity of economies to 'seize the moment' by capitalising on opportunities and niche in markets that emerge from the interface between rapid globalisation and technological change.

Investment in education, training and skills development is regarded as being critical to economic growth and export competitiveness in small developing countries. There are an estimated 3,000 institutions providing skill development opportunities for around 240,000 students in school-based education for trades and medium-skilled professions within technical education (auto-technician, telecommunication technician, etc.), vocational training (tailoring, embroidery, beautician, and general electrician etc.) and commercial trades (sale representative, secretarial services, etc.).

However, the HRD and vocational training situation in Pakistan is not impressive as compared to our neighbours and other developing countries of Asia. Malaysia is spending about eight per cent of its GDP on education, while Pakistan is spending less than three per cent, which is the lowest of all South Asian countries. Only a small part of the public budget allocation is allocated to traditional and vocational education training (TVET): five per cent out of an already low public investment in education; public expenditure on education in 2007-08 stood at 1.6 per cent of GDP, one of the lowest in the world.

This underinvestment has the potential to inhibit future investment and development of high value-added products and services for export and domestic markets. The percentage of professional diploma holders and skilled workers are lagging badly and the situation has not improved. Professionals and technology workers are only 5.3 per cent of the workforce, whereas it is 11 per cent in Turkey and Malaysia.

Overcoming the unemployment problem or developing competitive labour force needs HRD measures to incorporate technical and vocational subjects in the secondary school curriculum.

Traditional curriculum does not prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed for a technologically dynamic economy. Furthermore, several students are leaving the secondary (and primary) school system with little certification that could signal their productive abilities to employers.

A World Bank's report states, "The deepest and most pervasive poverty in the country is in rural areas, and it is worse in the areas that have been considered 'feudal' such as Sindh".

In this province, the landholdings of the feudal families are increasing day by day. The conditions that prevail in lower Sindh's rural areas are such that, as has been said before, it seems the clock has stopped ticking here centuries ago. So reducing the level of existing poverty and start ticking the clock can be done by technical education.

Moreover, the inability of the secondary schools to accommodate all the students graduating from the primary level mean that students left the school system at an early age with little or without meaningful skills. While primary level education is 'universal', secondary level is not universal. Governments have sought to address this problem by expanding the secondary school system and diversifying the primary and secondary school curricula on the basis of technical education.

Pre-vocational and even specialized training should offer after the primary level especially in rural areas. These schools would expect to provide students with options from four basic fields of technical education: agriculture, technology, home economics and commercial education.

Even the main examining body at the secondary level offers examinations in a range of technical and vocational subjects: agriculture science, art and craft, bookkeeping and principles of accounts, clothing and textiles, electrical technology, electronics, food and nutrition, information technology/computer studies, technical drawing, and shorthand and typewriting. The introduction of these subjects at the secondary school level marks a major change in the development of the human resources of the Pakistan.

These provide teenage school leavers, who are about to enter the labour market, with the basic knowledge and training to cater to the needs of employers. The introduction of technical and vocational subjects at the secondary school level will therefore be considered as a part of the general educational process to provide a higher level of skill acquisition and instrumentality (i.e., the ability to design, problem-solve, plan, etc) and to be a means of certifying the competence of students via formal examinations.

Sustainable investments are needed to upgrade the facilities of public training institutions to enable delivery of quality training. No doubt, the governments tried several initiatives like curriculum reform, universal primary and/or secondary level education, special technical and vocational training programs, apprenticeships and entrepreneurial development programs, but their impact is not hitting the particular group.

More than of the graduates have some foundational skills. This evidence says that the training programs are not relevant to the skills demanded. The poor training quality can be attributed to inefficient public administration of training programs, lack of interaction with industry, and outdated infrastructure of public institutions.

Especially experience in operating modern equipment is essential for tool and die makers, pipe setters, heavy equipment operators and other construction workers. However, the country's industrial base has only a limited capacity to produce experienced workers with these skills, as the pool of heavy equipment and machinery operators are too small, and only a few workers are able to become proficient at operating them.

Major reform is also needed by HRD department to create an atmosphere where the positive image with the cost and benefit analysis of TVET is introduced. Unfortunately, TVET is neglected by the society due to the trend in society towards higher education, and partly because of assumed lower quality associated with TVET.

To define requirements at the national level, both a profile of current human resources and a forecast of future requirements are necessary, as well as reliable and up-to-date information about employment opportunities and skill requirements in relation to both the domestic and foreign labour markets. Although international demand for major skills categories, such as engineering, computer science, natural science, management and finance, education and medicine is high. Detailed information, for instance, on the specific skills and levels of competence required is lacking. Such information is necessary to allow for realistic and timely national HRD policy planning and implementation, as well as to guide and support individuals in their choices regarding education, work and migration.

Undoubtedly, HRD plays a central role in the economic growth of any country. Currently, Pakistan is facing some serious challenges with regard to this profession. Though the government has created an HRD ministry. It has primarily evolved from the labour ministry. It will take some time to acquire in-house expertise to understand the dynamics of HR and its implications for the revival of industry. However, there is a strong need that government should understand that education is a key to change and progress of any nation. It rationalizes the social, cultural and political behaviour of nations, alleviates poverty and improves the quality of life of the individuals.