Last update: Sat, 13 Feb 2016 10pm
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Employed illiteracy

Providing employment to the youth may not be the best-selling mantra for the politicians, come the next elections, as there is hardly any room for more employment in Pakistan. The country is brimming with 94.4 percent employment rate. Yes – you heard it right – only 3 million people amongst the labour force in Pakistan are unemployed.

At least, that is what the recently released Labour Force Survey 2009-10 shows, putting Pakistan well ahead of the likes of USA, UK and Norway when it comes to employment rates. True that unemployment has increased by a single decimal point, but that is negligible as the absolute increase is still in line with the population growth rate of 2 percent per annum.

Don’t be fooled folks – have a closer look. And that look does not reveal a promising picture as the employment numbers seem to be overly inflated by ‘unpaid family workers’ who are described as those who work without pay in cash or in kind for an enterprise operated by a family member or somebody related.

And they constitute a huge 29 percent of the total employed workforce – take the chunk out and Pakistan would be reeling at the bottom of the list of employment rate. It is not necessarily a flaw in methodology, but it does depict a misleading picture as the unpaid workers are contributing towards production but getting nothing in reward.

Outside agriculture, which accounts for 45 percent of the employed force, a significant 73 percent is employed in the informal sector. That is not a bad thing in itself, but in hindsight, it depicts the abysmally low tax-GDP ratio of Pakistan. Farming income is not taxed – which takes out 45 percent of the employed workforce.

Then comes the informal sector, which is largely undocumented and hence not taxed – that takes out another major chunk off the tax net. No wonder, Pakistan‘s GDP ratio is as low as it is today.

Then are the literacy numbers – for a country having such low unemployment rate – a mere 58 percent literacy rate is an anomaly. This also gives Pakistan 163rd rank amongst all countries – hardly something to be proud of. Even more disturbing is the fact, that nearly 38 percent of the ‘literates’ are not even ‘metric-pass’.

No wonder the informal sector and the unskilled labour force continue to dominate the charts – and hence lower income levels. Pakistan’s demographic potential is so often talked about, but it is of no help if the literacy rate continues to be as dismal as it has been for decades. It is fitting that the country remains in trouble, when only 4 percent have the right to go to the parliament.