Jan 16 - 22, 20

Pakistan has a population of about 200 million with majority below 25 years age. Traditionally, huge population has remained involved in agriculture sector facing declining job opportunities due to mechanization.

There has been a massive migration to urban areas creating some serious problems. There is a need to reverse the trend by focusing on agriculture through higher value addition. In the urban areas there has been a growing focus on technology based industries/services rendering unskilled/semi skilled jobless. Therefore, now education has to be combined with vocational training for improving productivity of workers.

Enjoying the asset of huge population, Pakistan offers opportunities for establishing labor-intensive industries, particularly readymade garments manufacturing facilities. This requires both backward and forward integration.

Historically, Pakistan has been known as supplier of low price low quality products. A graduation to supplier of high quality products can enhance textiles and clothing exports to $20 billion. To achieve this target, the country will have to focus on enhancing production of superior quality fabric, both dyed and printed.

People working in readymade garments have to be imparted training to operate modern stitching, buttoning, and buttonhole making machines. Similarly, quality of workers operating circular knitting machines as well as those in working in made-ups units has to be improved.

Let one point be kept in mind that productivity of Pakistani workers is almost one third of the productivity of workers of the region. This is partly because of usage of older machines and partly because of lack of training.

Export of hand knotted carpets from Pakistan has been on the decline mainly because of 'child labor' allegations as well as unchecked influx of cheap carpets from Afghanistan.

Preference of customers has also shifted to machine made carpets from hand knotted carpets due to number of reasons. The attractive designs and superior finish of machine made carpets has affected overall production of hand knotted carpets. It may not be wrong to say that the issue of child labor has been over exploited by groups having vested interest.

These groups often forget that children in Pakistan or any developing country have to start work at younger age to support their families. A better solution is to encourage these children to continue their education, ensure better working conditions and corresponding remuneration, and focus on their health care.

It is also necessary to focus on basic education using contemporary syllabus and better teaching techniques. With the convergence of information technology and telecommunication, it has become mandatory to train the children to use computer efficiently and effectively. Computers are used in offices as well as manufacturing units.

Now most of the offices have local area networks. Many of the people believe that the job is over after the installation of network. On the contrary, the real work starts after the installation of system.

People having appropriate knowledge of different types of software, techniques to maintain local area network and computer hardware have to be hired. The alternate solution could be outsourcing the jobs.

Lately, establishing call centers has created jobs opportunities for people having different types of skills, but mostly ability to communicate with the callers and providing them information from the database maintained by the service providers. Commercial banks, telecommunication companies, and utilities have millions of customers, who need some clarification, complaints to register and rectification of billing issues.

To provide satisfactory service, first of all elaborate data base has to be prepared requiring services of data entry personnel and then for updating the data. Similarly, hardware and software maintenance people have to be hired. Therefore, the country needs institution to impart education and training. Since the latest technology is made available simultaneously in Pakistan, there is no reason the country could not compete with India. There is growing consensus that technology skills may not be inferior but Pakistan's image and lack of ability to market have to be overcome.

While India has become the largest outsourcing centre, Pakistan has failed in making any headway. It is often claimed that textiles and clothing contributes nearly 65 per cent to country's foreign exchange earnings. However, very few overseas companies use facilities present in Pakistan. Only the government could be held responsible for prevailing dismal situation. Besides negative propaganda about reports of acute energy crisis, overseas companies do not feel comfortable in placing orders with Pakistani manufacturers/exporters. Experts are of the view that entrepreneurs have to overcome electricity shortage issue at their own by creating in-house co-generation facilities and stop looking at the government for any help.

It may be pertinent to mention that many companies are now involved in renting out power generation equipment. Utilizing their services keeps them free from the hassle of investing in power generation equipment and hiring staff to operate it. Now, they could get uninterrupted electricity delivered at their premises at an agreed tariff. This has created new job opportunities for people in operating and maintaining power generation equipment.

One of the concerns is that educated and trained people go abroad. There seems nothing wrong with this because even when these people take jobs in other countries, their families stay in Pakistan and there is a regular inflow of remittances. There is a suggestion that instead of exporting semi skilled workers, Pakistan should focus on exporting doctors, engineers and business executives. On one hand, this will help in increasing remittances and on the other improve the country's image. If Indians can occupy senior positions in transnational companies, why can't Pakistanis?

This target can be achieved only by improving the curriculum and quality of faculty and above all developing linkages of Pakistani educational institutions with overseas universities.