On September 21, in a televised address to the nation, Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan (PM), took upon himself to announce a youth empowerment package that comprised six projects: Micro Interest-Free Loans Scheme, Small Business Loans Scheme, Youth Training Scheme, Youth Skill Development Scheme, Fee Assistance Scheme and PM’s Scheme for Laptops Provision. Rs 20 billion were allocated for the package, of which 50 percent of loans would be apportioned to women.
Sharif’s address issued three messages to the youth. First, the educated youth should not look towards the government sector for employment. In the past, the government sector used to be a mega employment-giving body. However, inefficiency and corruption has marred this sector. The damage is almost irreparable. The solution is being sought in privatization.
The second message is that the youth should rely on their own abilities and skills to earn their livelihood. This point also means that the youth should try to seek education that is market-oriented. That is, those degrees that are not in demand in the market should not be pursued. Similarly, skills should be learnt that could meet the market demand. In Pakistan, the general trend in education is awarding degrees but without practical skills. Emphasis is laid on rote learning of a theory but little importance is given to performing work in a laboratory. Consequently, Pakistani students get more equipped with theory than with practical knowledge.
The third message is that the youth should seek self-employment. That is, the youth should create a market of its own by using the knowledge and skills learnt at an educational institute. Self-employment is an area not yet popular in Pakistan. One of the reasons may be that the Pakistani youth are devoid of business leaning. The youth demand a safe play in the form of an employer, even in the private sector, providing a job even at the lowest possible salary. A young educated man may be happy to do that job because the job saves him from thinking and taking pains to earn his livelihood. Further, the job saves him from taking risks. A typical Pakistani youth wants to stand free of any risk.
In the past, Sharif used to distribute yellow cabs to the youth to help them earn their livelihood. That sort of scheme is not self-reliant in the sense that a yellow cab needs fuel to run and a passenger to earn fare. There is no innovation a cab driver can bring in to enhance his monthly income. On the other hand, in a self-employment scheme based on innovation (and discovery) there are prospects for the enhancement of one’s income if one innovates ideas.
In the schemes announced by Sharif now, the missing factor is export orientation. The youth should be laced with the skills that help enhance export promotion. For instance, there is room for innovation in agriculture products. Processed or whole food (both vegetable and fruit) can be exported to earn money. Dry fruit and its products can also be exported to other countries. With export orientation comes export destination. Europe and the US may be the destination of choice to earn foreign exchange but may not be the first destination. Markets such as the Central Asian States, Gulf States and South America should be explored. Even South East Asia is a good market for beginners.
In Pakistan, there is overemphasis on seeking Masters degrees having no or little market worth rather than earning a technical degree or a diploma from a vocational institute. One of the reasons is the psychological obsession of Pakistanis with earning a Masters degree. The developed countries of the world such as Germany have developed a parallel system of vocational institutes wherein training courses of all sorts are provided to make its manpower technically equipped.
Vocational institutes are major providers of skilled manpower to industry. In a country such as Pakistan where industry is mostly either high-tech such as textile (which needs fewer manpower) or low-tech such as sports and cutlery (which needs more manpower), there is more consumption of skilled labour in small-scale industry. In principle, the Sharif government should promote small-scale industry, which is already export-oriented and which is in need of technical know-how and manpower to compete with competitors such as the industry of China. Currently, the small-scale industry of Pakistan is under pressure because of cheap but skilled labour of China.
The Sharif government, through its youth empowerment package, should invest in this industry to protect it and help it compete with its rivals. Further, the government can channelise its financial resources through the handicraft industry, as Pakistani handicraft is also famous and an export item. In villages or small towns, vocational institutes that train manpower to manufacture handicrafts should be built and those should be assisted financially who learn to manufacture handicrafts.
Another thing that was missing was an emphasis on the sector of information technology (IT). The distribution of laptops is one thing but the distribution of information technology is another thing. To promote the sector, it could have been made compulsory to seek a degree in the IT sector to be eligible for securing any interest-free loan or a laptop. The consumption of information technology is not only immense in this country but Pakistan can also export software if they are developed here.
The Sharif government should also put some effort into controlling the population of the country. The resources of the country are becoming short in supply in the face of their demand being raised by overpopulation. Every year, the increase in resources is devoured by a disproportionate increase in population. New housing schemes are being announced and cities are expanding and engulfing the suburban cultivable land. The housing schemes may cater to the growing needs of overpopulation but overpopulation will keep on gobbling up all resources any government tries to build every year. – DailyTimes