08/14/2014, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Foreign investment and security to boost youth employment in Pakistan

by Shafique Khokhar - Shumaila Gill
Unemployment is rising in the Asian country, especially among young people (22 per cent). Poor government policies, terrorism and energy shortages have aggravated the problem. Affirmative action in favour of minorities, like 5 per cent in public sector jobs, has proven ineffectual. Job creation requires greater focus on "human capital".

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Pakistan, like other nations in the world, faces the challenge of rising unemployment, a recent trend that affects in particular the youngest age group, those in search of their first job, a major issue across South Asia.

In a country of more than 186 million people, the sixth largest in the world, 35 per cent of the population is under the age of 15 years. The members of this cohort are the ones who bear the brunt of social inequalities.

For instance, whilst the overall unemployment in the 2013-2014 period stood at around 6 per cent according to data from the National Statistics Office, the figure reaches 22 per cent for the youngest age group of the population.

Many internal and external factors are behind rising unemployment, with poor government policies at the top of the list. In fact, in the current situation, Pakistan offers few employment opportunities and even fewer resources to create jobs through ad hoc projects.

One example is the Provincial Government of Punjab, which has a programme aimed at providing training and resources to young people, but has so far failed to follow it through.

Growing political instability, lack of security and poor respect for the rule of law are among the causes of rising unemployment. This has led to instability aggravated by almost daily incidents of terrorism, thus creating a situation unfavourable for investments, especially from foreign sources, and development.

Poor education and training are another factor, this in a country with few prestigious educational facilities, schools and universities that can meet high standards.

Add to this a persistent energy crisis, with a growing number of plants forced to operate with chronic shortages and blackouts that interfere with production.

Moreover, even so-called minority quota, which reserves 5 per cent of public sector jobs for non-Muslims, has proven ineffective to meet the employment needs of Christians, Hindus, and Ahmadis.

In view of widespread confessional discrimination that keeps minorities on the margins of society and the workforce, this is a "drop in the bucket". At the same time, gender discrimination persists, in both urban and rural areas.

In addition, unemployment is a cause of depression, anxiety and isolation with negative impacts on family relationships.

To solve the employment problem in a difficult context such as that of present-day Pakistan concrete measures are needed, including the implementation of existing government policies aimed at encouraging job-creation.

The introduction of refresher and re-training courses for those who lost their job must be accompanied by changes to the age limit in the public sector, which now favours people between 50 and 60 years.

Finally, more investments must come from the international community, which together with tax and financial measures, must be geared towards creating jobs for young people and boosting the labour market, starting first of all with the available "human capital".

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