CONTRIBUTED BY: DR.NASIR JAVED
The Government had announced creating 10m jobs for the unemployed. Almost a year down the road, we hardly have any strategy or a plan, at least nothing has been stated. A few announcements here and there like Insaaf Rozegaar scheme, some run-of-the-mill loaning program in KP, BISP program, Skill development, etc are there, but as they say, ‘business as usual shall lead to results as usual’. What we need is a well thought out comprehensive national-level strategy and a well-coordinated integrated program that makes a real dent in the unemployment and underemployment at the national level. A full-scale game changer and not an NGO led pilot. What we need is an innovative approach, using all the competencies and positives that we have, woven smartly into a comprehensive plan through a Strategy. What I call Linking the Dots. Dots that we already have and can compete globally and require a minimum of government funds and encourage private investment. Dot 1: Data; As is more often than not the case in Pakistan, we jump to the solution, without adequately defining the problem. So let’s first define the problem of unemployment/underemployment, before we suggest the solution. And hereby defining the issue, I mean Data… i.e. numbers and geography. Who is unemployed and where is he/she. There are at least 3 sets of data needed to define the issue. We need to who is unemployed, know what is their education, what is their skill set, where do they live, and what are they doing now and what are their aspirations. How can we plan to create the jobs, in the absence of this data? How do we get this data? The answer is to let the people tell, and they would, as it’s their need. No traditional route of the census, survey, or consultancies. Let’s use IT & Web. We need to create a National Database of Unemployed and underemployed population. This requires good software and a Form uploaded on a website, where everyone can enter his/her data. The unique key would be the CNIC number to avoid duplication. Entry Forms should be in English as well as in Urdu and even in Sindhi & other regional languages. For illiterate people, someone can enter data on their behalf, provided CNIC of the verifying person is also entered to ensure the correctness of data. We can complete the database, in less than 3 months, using aggressive marketing through electronic & social media. The government only needs to develop the software and maintain a team for data maintenance. We can develop all kinds of analytics based on this data, to see how many unemployed we have, along with statistics on education, skills, age, sex, & geographical location up to Tehsil level. Looks strange in this era of communications, but the fact is NO Government agency has this kind of figure. Only guesswork. Once these analytics are available, we can have geographically and thematically targeted job creation strategies. 2nd Dot: Vacancies available, both in the public as well as the private sector. The second portal we need is the Vacancies Portal. ALL government jobs must be advertised on this portal, and this would ensure the widest publicity and the unemployed won’t miss a chance, as currently, the employer may advertise in any of the newspapers, making it difficult to keep a track of the opportunities. Similarly, all registered private companies, firms, industries are bound to advertise on the portal, though they would be free to hire and select as per their liking. But the portal would help us develop accurate data about supply & demand. 3rd Dot: Supply-side data: We all know that one of the reasons for unemployment is the very serious and significant mismatch between the graduates being produced and the jobs available. So, another portal should require that all educational and skill development institutions, both in the public as well as in the private sector offering, degree, diploma, and certificate level programs and their yearly enrollment data should be entered yearly. This shall help us coordinate the future jobs and the expected new entrants into the job market and for making evidence-based policies & strategies. 4th Dot: Identify Niche Market: Let’s focus on one of the sectors. Our handicrafts potential in the country. This is our competitive advantage, as we have a large rural population and there are hundreds of skills in handicrafts, many of which are unique to us. Starting in the south from Tharparker to the Northern FATA, every district has a unique product. Some examples being Brass work, leather products, wood carving, bamboo baskets, carpets, embroidery, jewelry, salt lamps, truck art decorations, etc. This potential has never been utilized to the full rather many of these arts are dying because of lower returns. Let’s develop this sector through an integrated, innovative & aggressive approach. Yes, we know that even now, many of the websites, NGOs, and even government programs are supporting these handicrafts, but the scale is very limited and not likely to create a national-level impact. What we need is innovation in approach. This is the area, where are already has a critical mass of skilled workforce with limited competition, even globally. Here is a portfolio of products that have reasonably high rates of return, even now. With added quality assurance and better designing, packaging & marketing we can take these returns to a still higher rate. 5th Dot: Pak Handcraft Marketplace What the government needs to do is to provide a platform, where the products are marketed and sold across the world. The internet provides an ideal platform. Let the Government sponsor the establishment of a platform like Amazon Marketplace. This is one of the many components of Amazon and here private entrepreneurs sell directly to customers while Amazon is just a connecting platform, providing services. Another example is Uber & Careem, where all investment in cars is private and they provide a connecting platform. So the handcraft marketplace (www.PakHandicraft Market.com) would provide a similar platform. The artisans would be producing the products and selling on the Marketplace by themselves or through a large number of entrepreneurs, kind of SMEs. 6th Dot: Skill Improvement of Artisans We also need to improve the design and quality of our handicrafts to compete with other countries, like India, Thailand, Vietnam, and others. This would require a team of designers and master trainers. We need to use both physical pieces of training at skill development centers and TV for lessons. Professionally made training videos in Urdu & regional languages and played extensively on TV would certainly be helpful. Since there would be a demand & competition for quality, this training could be provided by the private sector, with some facilitation by Govt. 7th Dot: Entrepreneurs: At universities, we are just producing ‘employees’. Let’s produce entrepreneurs. We need a whole new generation of young entrepreneurs, trained in e-commerce and facilitated through loans and incentives and connected to the PakHandicraftMarketplace. This training program needs innovation. In addition making it a part of university / college curricula, the lessons developed to be placed on the net, as well as on a special TV channel that should just be teaching people, how to use the marketplace and how to sell the products. This TV channel /s should be telecasting these lessons in all languages. TV is such a powerful medium of education and we are not using it. 8th Dot: Marketing Network: We also need to develop a team of professional marketing agents, working for the entrepreneurs & artisans, trained in e-marketing, producing high-quality marketing tools and products for the World. This would create numerous jobs/businesses for young graduates. 9th Dot: Supply chains. Once we launch this program, we need to ensure that raw materials & allied products and services are available in abundance. Once a comprehensive & integrated supply chain, from the production of the raw materials to manufacturing, packing, shipping, marketing, etc is developed, there would certainly be many allied jobs giving the program a multiplier effect. 10th Dot: Safeguards: We would need to develop a feedback mechanism from customers, to ensure that our exporters don’t cheat and quality is maintained. This is easy to do on an e-commerce platform, where customers post their feedback. The handicraft sector is made tax free for at least five years. No GST & no Income Tax. The beauty of this program is that almost all the investment would be made by the private sector and by small investors. We really don’t need billionaires to invest, rather a very large number of small SMEs spread across the country would sum up to billions of dollars. These entrepreneurs and networks once created and trained, would be able to diversify into other products. Japan, Thailand, China, and Vietnam all had developed One Village One Product type programs and are earning billions of dollars in exports. Why can’t we? Yes, we also started a program by the name of AHAN (Aik Huner, Aik Nagar), a few years ago. But it is just another typical government project and has made hardly any impact. In fact, the website is one of the most pathetic ones and the company is close to bankruptcy, as per the latest audit reports. (www.ahan.gov.pk). We can develop similar programs for other sectors also, provided we have the data and of course the will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Nasir Javed Head of Public Sector Consulting | ACS Consulting | An ACS SYNERGY Company He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org| email@example.com His social links are below; LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/nasir-javed-60a837144/ Youtube Channel: www.youtube.com/channel/UCyjiFtgoMSyLMFeebpkKvcw