NEED TO FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY THROUGH TRAINING AND EDUCATION
SAAD ANWAR HASHMI
Aug 20 - Sep 2, 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 the age of 15 and can read and write is estimated at 49.9% with male literacy at 70% and female literacy rate being 46%. The literacy estimates continue under question for accuracy. 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.
The literacy rate in Pakistan is low leading to poverty. Children in lower socio economic class who formulate the majority find themselves in an environment where basis necessities of life are absent. Strickened with poverty and lack of food supplies, most are forced to leave education and pursue a job which pays a minimum wage to support their parents. With time and age, some deviate and pursue a life of crime while others try to develop a skill which continues to pay them a minimum wage, enough to pay rent and put food on the table. With high inflation and consistent rise in price of basic commodities and foodstuff, those earning a minimum wage find themselves in high degree of frustration leading to revolt. Those who find it difficult to sustain a living can better their lives to education or acquiring skills through vocational training. The biggest challenge faced by Pakistan is to create an environment that fosters education and training with skills that caters to employment demand.
Reasons for illiteracy and low focus on education are various. However, the ultimate responsibility resides with the government for not 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%. It is evident that the more the government spends on quality education and training, the higher the literacy which leads to economic development. The lack of focus on education by the 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 recessionary gap, the younger generation who can afford mainstream education try to find opportunities elsewhere by moving abroad.
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 misutiliztion of recourses and budgets. Pakistan lacks quality vocational training institutes which are instrumental to provide skills to those who are less fortunate and eager to attend schools. Vocational training is specially important for special people to make them productive resource capable of earning a wage. 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. Special people who acquire skills for a certain job are discriminated against due to their disability. Secondly, employers do not kept a provision to hire special people and often pay lower than market average if they are hired. The equipment used for training at government controlled vocational schools is outdated and not at par with the equipment used in the industry or by private institutions. 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. With two-third of Pakistan's population residing in rural areas, Pakistan is estimated to have 3,100 vocational training institutes which could be instrumental in providing training to the rural community if budget allocated.
The country needs to focus on human capital for 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 reduction in overall cost of manufacturing. Human capital development 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. Training and skill development is a major investment which would keep people employed and would reduce the level of crime and poverty in the country
The country has also experienced Brain Drain referred to as "Human Capital Flight" which is large-scale emigration of groups of individuals with technical skills and knowledge and has been consistently witnessed in Pakistan. The reasons for capital flight include lack of employment opportunities, political instability, economic depression, health risks and high inflation. Human capital flight is not something encouraged by any nation since resource which can be useful for the economy serve other nations in their development. The improvement in human capital in Pakistan will start with efficient allocation of budgets and resources 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 reduction in crime rate and poverty. 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 and skills acquired. Pakistan must make efforts to reduce the level of poverty through encouragement of education and training to assist the country lead towards a better tomorrow through its people who have the required skills to take on challenging opportunities and improve their standard of living.