Pakistan ranks 164th in the world in terms of its investment in education and health care as the measurement of its commitment to economic growth, according to the first-ever scientific study ranking countries for their levels of human capital. Pakistan is a country rich in human capital, mineral and other agricultural resources and yet its development history, poverty, debt and other social ills have once again become the focal agenda. It is a recognized fact that developed countries achieved high rates of sustained economic growth because of investment in human capital. Human resource development should be an integral part of every government’s top agenda. The role of human capital in promoting economic growth is well recognized therefore, Pakistan’s growth opportunity to a large extent be driven by the level of the development of its human capital. As a matter of fact, the Asian economies; Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong were driven by the focused strategic development of their human resource capital in line with the emerging 21st century development requirements.
As we know, Pakistan is a big and diverse county of varying geographical and population sizes, language and governance styles. There is no doubt that where Pakistan as a nation will eventually stand in the economic ladder is highly dependent on its strategic human resource management development. Its total population is over 220 million, and over 50 percent of the population is under the age of 30. This huge population presents an investment opportunity and platform for Pakistan’s human capital and economic development.
There are various challenges in human development in Pakistan. The progress achieved and the rate of human development is far too small to create momentum. There are concerns that the caliber of education graduates and the behaviors displayed are in some cases not compatible with the required capabilities and behavior standards. The purpose for education and the outcomes required have to be clearly defined beyond the years of basic education. There is a need for the federal and provincial governments to review and reinvent the educational infrastructure whereas improvements are needed to deliver on the national vision and on the basis of development priorities.
Pakistan is beset with a number of challenges which range from critical inadequacies of qualified and capable human capital and high levels of talent migration. Rightly, the quality and quantity of the talent pool are vital for accelerated national development. It is a key factor in attracting and promoting investment opportunities. Potential investors assess Pakistan’s potential for business investment based on among other things the availability of a ready pool of individuals with the requisite talent, production capabilities, work ethic, and work culture.
A study was issued in 2018, titled, “Measuring human capital: A systematic analysis of 195 countries and territories, 1990 to 2016”, which says that Pakistanis only have 5.7 years of expected human capital while Finland’s level of expected human capital in 2016 was 28 years. It reveals that people do not live as long in the workforce as most people in the world, taking into account number of years between ages of 20 and 65 – a time when people are the most active in the workforce. On average, Pakistanis lived 39 of those 45 years, putting Pakistan at number 140 of the 195 countries.
The technical capability and work ethic have been major negatives in attracting investments into Pakistan. In order for Pakistan to create major breakthroughs, it is imperative that investments in human capital development must be supported by systematic and stringent performance measurement systems with inbuilt external auditing of skill capabilities.
Singapore’s strategy for human capital developed was based on a multi-pronged strategy which included major investments in; educational infrastructure, quality of teaching and defined high performance educational outcomes both the investment capital in infrastructure; by integrating the country’s educational curriculum; and a systematic talent harvest strategy to identify the best and to give them the best opportunities for learning and career development.
The major breakthrough can only be possible if specified skills and competencies is achieved within a defined period and a systematically monitoring of the progress and performance is made and lastly a systematic gradual increase of responsibilities to citizens is made. It is also important that if Pakistan wants to become a regional force then it has to put in place internal mechanisms to understand and anticipate regional developments and implications on national and regional priorities.
It is estimated that Pakistan loses thousands of its trained human capital to the Middle East, Europe and the Americas per annum and given the prevailing inadequacies these losses represents a significant proportion of the country’s talent pool. Talent is attracted to powerful economies because of opportunities for better salary packages as well as opportunities to put some of the learned skills into practice. Given the poor state of the economy, Pakistan may continue to be vulnerable to such losses. Conditions have to be created to induce locals to return and serve in their cities or provinces. This will increase the opportunities for broadening the knowledge and expertise base within national organizations. There is a common practice in Pakistan that when individuals leave their organizations prematurely doors are permanently closed against them and there is no provision for smooth re-entry, any such attempt is often viewed negatively and in some cases, it is regarded as an acknowledgement of failure on the enterprising individuals. Therefore, Pakistan has to develop strategies for managing the critical balance between demand and supply. There are on one hand critical skill shortages in most of the highly technical and scientific professional areas such as in medicine, engineering, technology, and others, and on the other hand there are increasing challenges of unemployment in the unskilled and semi-skilled cadres, there are also real challenges of market saturation in some professional skill areas. We have seen such a situation in case of CPEC projects, where Chines are coming to Pakistan for work because Chines are not getting the right resource.
There is a recognition that the requirements of global developments and the competitiveness will be dictated by the quality of the human capital stock. Pakistan has the potential to transform itself into a regional force and a regional hub. There are major human development challenges that have to be addressed in order to create the necessary breakthroughs in development. Most significantly the need for a common human development agenda between different parties and stakeholders in federal and provincial governments. Increased investments in the educational institutions and strengthening the delivery capacities and quality of educational outcomes. Major leadership and managerial deficiencies in the public sector institutions that impact on the quality of public policy and technical delivery capabilities. There is an opportunity to transform Pakistan’s challenges into opportunities and to transform Pakistan from a third world country to a well-performing country rests with the Pakistani leadership.