Booming manpower export, which had lately remained depressed, with gradual contraction in its size


Nov 08 - 14, 2004

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad last week, Minister for Labour, Manpower and Overseas Pakistanis, Ghulam Sarwar Khan told newsmen that his ministry has set an ambitious target of exporting two hundred thousand professionals, skilled and semi-skilled manpower annually to other countries to earn maximum jobs in the international market and earn maximum foreign exchange for the country.

The government has allocated more than 1 billion rupees during the current fiscal year for undertaking various training and development of workers skill programme in the country and thereby facilitate the export of manpower. The main purpose of enhanced manpower export was to contribute to poverty alleviation programme. This target of manpower export will bring relief to 200,000 families.

The Minister revealed that Kuwait has asked the Overseas Employment Corporation (OEC) to send 4,700 Pakistani workers. While breaking the encouraging news, he referred to it as "the biggest demand from Kuwait in recent decades." More to it, he also revealed that another employer from that country has asked for 470 drivers. Again, while disclosing that some other countries had demanded 1,125 workers and that these positions would soon be advertised. Noteworthy, in this regard, the Minister's further disclosed that demands from Korea, Libya and Malaysia for over 655 workers being in the pipeline and the agreement with the Korean employer is scheduled to be signed in November. In addition to this, an employer from Libya is making queries for selection of 200 workers from Pakistan. The Malaysian government is planning a policy to import Pakistani workers, in maximum numbers.

He said according to a conservative estimate, more than $4.5 billion, as compared to $3.1 billion were received during 2002-03 from the expatriates during this year. The fresh export of 200,000 manpower would further push the remittances up by about $ 500 million in the first year. The minister claimed "people have faith and confidence in the economic policies of the government that have motivated them to send money to Pakistan. They are not only sending money but have also started investing in Pakistan", he added.

The Minister revealed that the work on establishment of labour complexes was in full swing in key industrial areas of the Punjab and these labour complexes would include a labour colony, hospital and school for children of industrial workers. The present regime, he said, was taking revolutionary measures providing better and modern health cover and accommodation facilities to the industrial workers at their doorstep.

The Minister said sufficient funds were being mobilized on providing maximum facilities of education to the children of industrial workers while free uniforms and textbooks were provided to the children in the educational institutions functioning in the province. He said that proposals are under considerations by Provincial Workers Welfare Boards to construct labour colonies out of workers welfare fund in the country. To focus on the problems of overseas Pakistanis, he said the labour ministry has establish a complaint cell and help in line in the ministry to immediately resolve all the grievance of the overseas Pakistanis.

All this, put together, can be viewed as marking the beginning of a new process of revival the once booming manpower export, which had lately remained depressed, with gradual contraction in its size. Several have been the causes behind the severe setback to the country's manpower exports. However, before going into the causes of its gradual decline in recent decades, it will be worthwhile to analyze the factors behind its earlier upsurge. For one thing, the vast majority of its people inhabiting the areas of tremendous natural resources constitute equally huge potential of human resource, as a gift of nature to make best of all the nature's other gifts.

It is, however, just another matter that this huge manpower potential, remained largely awaiting its gainful exploitation, because of the errors and omissions of the new country's early planners. This, of course, has reference to the neglect of agriculture and other labour intensive sectors of development. On the contrary, it will be recalled that, for various reasons, including the lure of highly industrialized west, they fell for rapid industrialization from an erroneous strategy. Of course, there was nothing basically wrong about the urge to industrialize, for it was ideally suited to the country's potential, including both material and manpower.

While Pakistan's agriculture sector with its fertile soil and wide variety of crops, provided all the opportunity to boost production to increasing levels with greater attention and will. It could not only meet our own food and other needs but also enhance foreign exchange earnings through exports. This aspect of agriculture, unfortunately, failed to impress the early planners and managers of the economy. Instead, they hastened with industrialization, unmindful of the fact that Pakistan had nothing by way of producing capital goods, without which establishment of industries could boom. This is what has eventually happened.

The huge amounts of money, in foreign currency, spent from own resources or through foreign loans or aid, also proved counterproductive. The reasons for this are not too far to seek either. Moreover, the industrial capacities built were soon found too large, compared to the demand. This should leave little doubt in view of the fact that the industrial sector lacked a strong and wide enough consumer base. It will, thus, be noted that strong, hardy labour power, as well as skilled craftsmen, remained deprived of any effective role in the hastily initiated industrial effort. But enterprising as the nation's manpower happens to be, subsequently it created its own demand in other countries, far and near, pulsating with development activity suited to their potential.

This was what opened in a growing market for our manpower far and wide in the world, while increasingly enriching the country with huge foreign exchange earnings. Although with the fall in demand for overseas workers, for a number of reasons, including the menace of terrorism, Pakistani manpower continues to make its need felt. Now with indications of its revival, it will be all the more advisable to fashion development as to ensure their participation. At the same time, there will be need for educating and training of the workers in a manner conducive to the new emerging world economic scenario.