Human resource development a vital component for economic growth



May 30 - June 05, 2005



In order to contain unemployment in the country, the federal government has prepared an ambitious plan to provide vocational training to about 300,000 jobless men and women annually at an annual cost of Rs6 billion from the coming financial year.

Talking informally to newsmen in Islamabad last week, Minister of State for Finance, Umar Ayub Khan said that Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would soon announce a new vocational training and skill enhancement programme. The minister noted, already 150,000 workers are being imparted training in various technical institutions on an annual basis, whereas there are plans to double this figure next year.

It will be a training-based, job provision programme under which 65 vocational skills and trade would be imparted in 241 institutes spread over the country including 5 at Islamabad, 15 in Balochistan, 28 in NWFP, 37 in Sindh and 157 in Punjab. These institutes are separate for men and women and will be located at Islamabad, Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Bhawalpur, Sukkur, Karachi, Hyderabad, Quetta, Gwadar, Turbat, Peshawar, Mardan and Abbottabad.

Under the scheme 300,000 jobs in first two years will be provided and later on another 300,000 new jobs would be created every year. The province wise break up for jobs provision, as per plan documents is as follows: In the first year, Punjab will get 50,000, Sindh 16,667, NWFP 13,333, Balochistan 2,333, while 16,767 will be provided by the private sector. In the second year, Punjab will get 100,000, Sindh 33,333, NWFP 26,667, Balochistan 7,000, while 50,000 will be provided by private sector.

The methodology adopted for the entire exercise would be as follows: capacity building of the existing vocational training centers; VTC-market coordination for bringing them at par with the markets requirement; use of media for connectivity for the programme with education, target population of men and women; link-up with private sector for on job training and post training assessment.

According to official sources, the government has documented around 4 million of the labour force out of 45 million able bodied (8%) as potentially unemployed. Increase in the unemployment labour force has been from 3% from 1990s. The government statistics say that 15 million are on jobs (35%) but live on less than a dollar a day. The female unemployment is twice that among men (around 13%). Youth unemployment (15-24 years) is 24%. According to the list, low education and skill levels of the labour force is the basic cause of concern in this context.

Annual labour force has been growing at 3 percent, however, the actual challenge facing the government is accelerating economic growth, increasing employment intensity of growth and improvement of job quality.



To generate employment, the government identifies agriculture, housing and construction, SMEs, IT and telecom as key sectors having strong potential of opportunities. In between 1999 to end 2003, the government has concentrated in restoring macro stability through a stringent fiscal policy stance and restrictively monetary policy under an IMF programme but now having achieved turnaround on the macro front and the rekindling of economic growth, the government seen focusing it full attention on job creation besides poverty reduction.

This initiative on the part of the government, of course, is reflective of the realization that human resource development has to be a vital component of any meaningful strategy of economic progress. As a matter of fact, the governments started paying attention to this important need in early 90s when it established a skill Development Council and a Technical Education and Vocational Authority.

Majority of our workforce neither has basic education nor any kind of skill training. People become plumbers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, machine operators, gardeners, tailors etc. without systematic learning but despite their hard work and talent they fail to deliver the best results in their chosen vocations. Hence, even when such people get jobs in various Middle Eastern states they remain grossly underpaid. It is a well known fact that educated/trained workers tend to produce better quality of products and that is why even in a highly developed country like the US worker education and skill enhancement remain a constant government concern. Vigilance is maintained on a regular basis so that the country is not left behind in the stiff producers such as Japan. It is all the more important for the government to pay special attention to the need of enhancing worker skills and education.

In the coming days, as the globalization process picks up steam, the demand for trained workers is going to increase further. Already 'outsourcing' is the new buzzword as more and more developed countries are turning to low cost markets for manufacturing different components of products that range from garments to airplanes. Those who get employment in manufacturing sector should have necessary skills as well as proper education to be able to read/design drawings. Such jobs, needless to say, require precision rather than approximation that, unfortunately, characterizes the work methodology of our untrained workforce. The government has embarked on the right course in deciding to expand various skill-training programmes.