Oct 29 - Nov 04, 2007

The Planning and Development Board Punjab is rendering valuable services for the grooming and education of policy makers under the leadership of Chairman P&D Board Suleman Ghani. In this regard, the P&D Board is conducting a series of lectures on important subjects. In this regard, a lecture on the topic of "an employment and decent work strategy for the Punjab" was arranged. The Director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for Policy Planning and Employment Sector Dr Rashid Amjad was the Guest Speaker.

In his address, Dr Rashid Amjad, asked the policy makers in Punjab to define the growth strategy for achieving sustainable, productive and remunerative employment for their fast growing labour force.

In his paper, Dr Rashid suggested that the goal of a development strategy must be not to create just any employment but productive and decent employment, which respects rights at work, provides remunerative income, an affordable degree of social protection and a voice at work through social dialogue. He said productivity growth should drive this process and this means shifting the growth path of the economy to higher productivity sectors and activities, drawing on new technologies and developing the knowledge and social infrastructure to feed and sustain this growth path, he said.

Dr Rashid said the decent work agenda and the commitment to make the goals of full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective of national and international economic policies, was now recognised at the international level, as in the Heads of State and Government Declaration at the follow up to the Millennium Summit in 2005 at the UN, and the ECOSOC Ministerial Declaration in July 2006. Pakistan participated in both these meetings and supported these resolutions.

He said the main objectives of the decent work agenda for promoting more and better jobs were to promote decent employment in which international labour standards and workers' fundamental rights went hand in hand with job creation; place employment at the center of economic and social policies at the global, regional and national level; through the creation of productive employment, better the lives of the hundreds of millions of people who are either unemployed or whose remuneration from work is inadequate to allow them and their families to escape poverty; improve earnings, productivity and living standards of working women and men, especially of the working poor; and ensure that the benefits of economic growth reaches those sectors where poverty is most concentrated, namely, the urban informal economy and the rural areas, especially landless labour and small tenant farmers.

In his paper, Dr Rashid also discussed the key elements of a decent work strategy for the Punjab, which included revising the IRO to bring it into conformity with international labour standards, changing the current labour inspection policy to make it effective and in conformity with international labour standards, ensuring that contract workers enjoy benefits as stipulated in the existing Labour Laws, and exploring means to improve real wages and conditions of work for agricultural workers and for those in the informal economy.

Dr Rashid said the Punjab government could either take the low road to economic development by opting for a strategy that is based on producing low productivity goods through low wages and in poor conditions of work; or they could move towards the high road to economic development, based on gradually moving into high productivity sectors and ensuring adequate remuneration for workers in an efficient, equitable and rights based labour market. Pakistan is not a low wage economy and taking the low road would be a retrogressive step. Punjab's development and employment strategy must move on to the high road to economic development, he said.

He also advocated for creating more and better jobs for men and women in the Punjab, improving employability and skills, improving the efficiency of the labour market through increasing mobility and reducing skills mismatch and providing access to labour market information. He continued there was need of an active labour market policies (ALMPs) to assist young people and vulnerable groups, mainstreaming gender equality.

P&D Chief Economist Dr Shaujat Ali said economists were prone to viewing all policy prescriptions and interventions through an efficiency versus equity perspective.