The leading global market research and consulting firms, IPSOS which has been conducting surveys in Pakistan for its Global Consumer Confidence Index (GCCI), known as the National Index, found that the GCCI dipped to the lowest score of 22 in June 2020 in Pakistan compared with the global average of 45.1 for the month and average of 42.5 for Middle Eastern and North African countries. Moreover, Pakistan’s score on the Jobs Index is 38.2, compared to the global average of 46. All this has turned things further pessimistic about the future of Pak economy.

Independent econometricians of Pakistani origin inside and outside the country are of the view that although Pakistan’s economic conditions remained fragile for many years, things worsened further during the last two years. There is a perceptible improvement in the current account deficit, bur that happened due to slowing of the economic growth. It suggests that the promise of ‘Nay Pakistan’ by the ruling Pakistan Three-e-Inset and Prime Minister Imran Khan Nazi.

Rising unemployment and a high cost of living are now the biggest concerns for Pakistanis with the coronavirus pandemic shattering confidence of people in the economy. According to an Ipsos opinion survey, ,based on primary data collected from the nationally representative sample of 1,100 persons,, people are reluctant to make personal investment decisions over the next six months due to an overall low trust in the economy. On the Investment Index, the score was only 11.3, suggesting that the respondents would not invest in the near future.

Job loss scenario became darker due to evacuation of more than 300,000 Pakistanis., mostly from the United Arab Emirates - 154,856, followed by Saudi Arabia - 63,595 (Including 480 Umra pilgrims and 195 detainees). The unemployment ratio in the country crossed 12 per cent Joblessness is severe in rural areas where 70 per cent of Pakistanis live The main cause of joblessness there is the backwardness of agriculture sector which again is the largest sector of Pakistan economy It contributes 20.9 per cent of GDP and 44 per cent of people directly or indirectly seek means of livelihood from the farm sector.

However, Pakistan is not alone in facing the gloomy economic downturn. According to several international assessments including the one by the International Labour Organization, 59 per cent full-time jobs have been wiped out in the Asia-Pacific region and South Asia alone accounted for 110 million of the total 235 million full-time jobs lost this quarter. Job losses increased by over 400 per cent in South Asia and Africa each since the first quarter, said the estimates. During this period, the South Asian region — comprising of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — lost 89 million jobs, according to these estimates.

Development professional Zishan Ahmad Siddiqi in a commentary expressed concern over the health risks of large number of workers in hazardous jobs without use of necessary equipment and safety measures. Resultantly, low outputs, frequent accidents and prolonged illness of workers cost the Pakistan economy a terrible price. Workers become incapable to work much before superannuation. ‘The businesses and the workers also fail to imbue a trusted relationship that complicates the situation further.

Individual miseries insinuated by lack of employer-employee relationship then accumulate to a low productive economy, he observed. The public policy wheelers owe ‘an immediate and concerted focus on augmenting abilities of labour force at hand’. Lack of workers’ education is to be blamed. This is very much in existence in the service sector. “Un-orderly and unhygienic premises where innumerable people work in the services sector cannot be expected to deliver efficient services to their clients.

A diligent monitoring system along with strengthening of public beneficiaries participation is direly needed to improve efficiency of the service sectors”, he added. Pakistan has poor occupational safety and health legislation and infrastructure to promote it. There are large numbers of illiterate workers, employed informally in unregulated sectors like construction, agriculture and mining, especially in small-size enterprises.

Diseases and accidents in the work place are an appalling tragedy. The incidence of occupational diseases and injuries is very high in Pakistan because thousands of workers are routinely exposed to hazardous chemicals. These workers are obviously more vulnerable to Covid 19 threat. (IPA Service)