Strategy to combat unemployment


Rashid A Mughal

Unemployment is a scourge and the worst nightmare of planners and economists in every country of the world – be it the most advanced country like the U.S.A, U.K and other European countries or the developing countries in Asia like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Vietnam or poor countries like Yemen, Somalia, Uganda and others in Africa. Millions of people die every year due to hunger and poverty only because they do not have access to basic food for survival, mainly because they cannot afford it, being unemployed. Causes of unemployment could be either lack of opportunities in a given country or low level of skills or not having any skills by the work force, looking for jobs/employment. The world, now being a global village and with advancement in technology, the employers are looking for the trained and efficient workers who can handle the tools of today and give their best. Countries which have planned and foreseen these developments, have adopted proper skill development initiatives and thus considerably reduce un-employment in their countries as their trained labour force find jobs – both locally and overseas without hassle.
Today you see Philipino nurses in most of the hospitals in the Middle East and America, Indian software developers in Silicon Valley, Pakistani construction workers in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. There is a dearth of skilled workers in host countries and hence they are compelled to hire overseas workers to meet their urgent and pressing requirements.
It is now an established fact that human resource constitutes a major pillar of development of any country. Those who have invested in the human capital have achieved rapid development and affluence and reduction in poverty, which is considered to be the biggest challenge as declared by the United Nations. Countries which have provided training to their working class have succeeded in reducing poverty to a great extent and thus improved the living standard of their nationals. The globalization has created a huge opportunity for qualified trained and technical workers as they are in great demand in almost every continent. Doctors, engineers, pharmacists, nurses, construction workers urban planners and environmentalist are needed by every country, notwithstanding the global financial crises or the trade wars. In addition there is persistent dearth of business and banking professionals in financial capitals of the world like USA, UK, Singapore and Dubai. In the coming days, this dearth is going to increase further rather than decrease for two simple reasons: globalization of trade and commerce and doing away with trade barriers and need for qualified and trained work force to develop infrastructure for massive projects which some of the countries with extra cash have embarked upon.
The developed countries need hundreds of thousand of qualified and trained workers to cater to their demand of skilled and trained workers. The demand for manpower is thus far from over. The role the expatriate workers play in the development of a country is set to increase significantly as the remittances they send to their home countries has now come to be recognized as the single major source of contribution in economic growth. This role is constantly increasing in terms of percentage and poverty reduction.
The World Bank, the IMF the UNCTAD and OECD have realized and accepted the fact that remittances have played a major role in the development of manpower exporting countries and improved the living standard of its people thereby reducing poverty. It is noteworthy that countries which have embarked upon providing world class training facilities to their work force have succeeded in capturing a major chunk of the available opportunities where as country like Pakistan has suffered because of negligence or will on the part of concerned departments/ministries in the past. The fact becomes evident from the number of workers sent abroad by manpower exporting countries during the last 10 years.
While manpower export occupies central and important place in the over all planning of a country (eg Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka) it has yet to get importance it deserves in our country as it has not yet been even given a status of a Ministry. The subject of training has been relegated to a secondary importance and there is no proper strategy or policy to increase manpower export and remittances, which are the lifeline of the country.  Remittances to low- and middle-income countries reached a record high in 2018, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief(April 2019)
The Bank estimates that officially recorded annual remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries reached $529 billion in 2018, an increase of 9.6 percent over the previous record high of $483 billion in 2017. Regionally, growth in remittance inflows ranged from almost seven percent in East Asia and the Pacific to 12 percent in South Asia. The overall increase was driven by a stronger economy and employment situation in the United States and a rebound in outward flows from some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and the Russian Federation.
Excluding China, remittances to low- and middle-income countries ($462 billion) were significantly larger than foreign direct investment flows in 2018 ($344 billion). Among countries, the top remittance recipients were India with $79 billion, followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico ($36 billion), the Philippines ($34 billion), and Egypt ($29 billion) and Pakistan(21.8 billion).In 2019, remittance flows to low- and middle-income countries are expected to reach $550 billion, to become their largest source of external financing.
The manpower export figures of Pakistan have shown declining trend since last three years as compared to other manpower exporting countries. Had the upward trend been maintained, the remittances might have touched $25 billion.
Thus the government needs to act fast in controlling the damage done so far and devise well thought out strategy to reduce unemployment by concentrating on export of manpower. The new government should use its goodwill and clout to procure maximum job opportunities abroad for our citizens and sign bi-lateral agreements with friendly countries in this regard and should also focus on enhancing flow of remittances through manpower export for which a proper policy frame work needs to be put in place. Recently Romania and Japan have asked for skilled and semi-skilled workers from Pakistan which is a welcome sign. Most of the EU countries need skilled manpower in view of their ageing population. It is hoped it will open a window of opportunity for our un-employed youngsters.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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