NEED FOR FOCUSED EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
SAAD ANWAR HASHMI
July 9 - 15, 2012
Based on demographic profiling, Pakistan has a population of 180 million people with a median age of 21.5 years for both male and female. Based on literacy which is defined as those who have attained schooling till the age of 15 and are able to read and write is estimated at 49.9% with male literacy at 63% and female literacy rate being 36%. Pakistan primarily comprises of a young population which brings an additional challenge for the country to provide avenues where this talent is trained and educated with the required skill set enough for them to earn a livelihood. In order for the talent to be able to meet economic and business challenges, quality education at par with international standards is the paramount need of the country.
We have witnessed time and again that many who fall at or below poverty line forego education to earn a living working on a basic wage. Specialized training is particularly required focused towards improving the skills of workers who are involved in manufacturing, land improvements, construction, trading, farming and machinery coupled with education and related experience which leads to worker specialization to assist in a reduction in the overall cost of manufacturing. Such focused training helps an individual increase his competency in performing a particular task. The specialization and technical skill set eventually leads to sharing of knowledge to improve the competency of those who are less trained.
Pakistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. One of the reasons for high illiteracy is the lack of focus by government towards providing quality education and vocational training for improving such skills. Pakistan only spends 2.1% of its GDP on education where as neighboring countries e.g. India spends 4.1% with a literacy rate of 74% and Sirlanka spends 5.5% of its budget on GDP with a literacy rate of 96%. In 2010, Pakistan produced 750 Phds which is considered low as compared to the population of the country. It is evident that the more the government spends on quality education and training, the higher the literacy rate which leads to economic development. The lack of focus on education by current and previous governments has resulted in widespread unemployment, brain drain and increase in the level of crime year on year. Since employment opportunities are further squeezed due to downturn in the economy and the recessionary gap, younger generation seeks employment opportunities elsewhere by moving abroad.
Observing the operating condition of government controlled schools, colleges and universities show that neither the budget allocated for education in Pakistan is sufficient nor the utilization of allocated funds is done as required due to corruption leading to under and a lack of utilization of recourses and budgets. Pakistan lacks vocational training institutes which are instrumental to provide skills to those who are less fortunate and eager to attend schools. Vocational training is especially important for special people to make them a productive resource capable of earning money. Those who receive vocational training are facing difficulties in finding the jobs for which the skill is acquired due to economic recession. Additionally, blue collar jobs in Pakistan, specially in rural areas are ideally given through personal contacts, race and ethnic background which further adds to the challenge to look for jobs. Those categorized as Special and have acquired skills for a certain job are discriminated against due to their disability. Secondly, employers do not kept a provision to hire special people and pay lower than market average if they are hired. With change in technology and means of carrying out a particular task, vocational schools do not provide advance trainings as the instructors themselves lack training. Pakistan is estimated to have 3,100 vocational training institutes which could be instrumental in providing vocational training to the rural community if budget allocated for its improvement which does not seem a possibility with current economic situation. Based on current facts, 53% of the vocational training schools are located in Punjab were as 20% in Sindh followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at 13% and Baluchistan at 9%. Considering the lack of focus quality education, there continues to be a dire need of increasing the number of vocational institutions throughout Pakistan with concentration on rural areas.
In recent times, we have witnessed an increase in emigration abroad from Pakistan due to a lack of employment opportunities, political instability, economic depression, health risks and high inflation. Human capital flight is not something encouraged by any nation since resources which can be useful for the economy serve other nations in their development. Pakistan however receives an average of USD 1.0Bn a month in worker remittances seen as a positive sign. Lack of employment opportunities due to poor GDP has resulted in large scale migration from the country in search of employment, through it has been seen as a blessing in disguise reflected through the influx of worker remittances. Through it cannot be quantifiable in monetary terms, a sizable portion of inflows through worker remittances are received through illegal channel commonly known as Hawala which is equally prevalent in India and particularly common which those who do not have bank accounts.
The improvement in skillset and education in Pakistan will only start with efficient allocation and use of budgets for education, vocational and technical trainings. As more individuals are trained and pursue a job in line with their training, the success can be measured through a reduction in crime rate. Once again, this cannot be seen in isolation since the government needs to provide avenues through development projects to create employment opportunities in line with those who are trained. Pakistan has always been viewed as a net importer. Perhaps, human capital flight i.e. export of skills may just be Pakistans largest export to ensure dollar inflows through worker remittances to help increase Pakistan's dollar reserves and reduce budget and trade deficit.