Industrial labor – treading on a thorny path

industrial labor

FAISALABAD, Sep 3 (APP):: With the growing economic recession and closure of hundreds of businesses including industrial units, life has become too miserable for laid-off labor across the country with many among them resorting to criminal activities.

Validly considered as a backbone of our economy, the industrial sector was the worst hit by recession, inflation, energy and inputs prices with the country losing a valuable organ meant for earning precious foreign exchange for the national kitty.

Hundreds of thousands workmen lost their jobs after closure of hundreds of industrial units with the situation compelling them to starve or in extreme circumstances opt for criminal activities.

“Faisalabad was contributing 60% of total textile exports singularly employing 40% of the total textile sector workforce,” said Senior Vice President Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI) Dr Sajjad Arshad. “But, now 50 percent industrial units are closed down due to political uncertainty, inconsistent policies and unprecedented inflation.”

He said the closure of industrial units had fomented unemployment at a large scale and feared that people without jobs may resort to criminal activities. “The prevailing situation is not only depriving the country of much needed foreign exchange but also threatening overall societal peace.”

As the industrial sector contributes 57% taxes alone with its share in the GDP at 18 percent, he said, its recession was a severe blow for the national economy as well as food security.

According to Central Chairman All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPM) Muhammad Pervaiz Lala, the export industry was the mainstay for stabilizing national economy but it suffered severe setbacks due to multiple reasons.

“Regionally Competitive Energy Tariff (RCET) for gas and electricity was suddenly withdrawn that resulted in cost multiplication to export-oriented sectors by 100% in terms of electricity and 35% in terms of gas,” Lala said.

“It was very problematic that forced industrialists to either close down their units or bear heavy losses.”

Similarly, he said, interest rates went up from 7-8 % to 23-24%, refinancing from 6% to 18% and the fast scheme of sales tax was not working as designed. “All these issues increased the cost of doing business and industrialists instead of bearing heavy losses preferred to close down their units.”

Hafiz Sheikh Muhammad Asghar Qadri Chairman APTPMA Faisalabad Zone said rampant increases in rates of oil, gas and electricity had dragged the industrial sector to the verge of total collapse. “The downsizing by main industrial units had rendered thousands of workers jobless.”

He said every government had claimed to devise and implement pro-industry policies but without any positive results. “Even the PTI government despite boasting of industrial revival could do nothing concrete for the revival of this sector. Its claims simply proved to be hollow slogans.”

Other than the textile industry, almost every sector was worse hit by inflation, interest rates, paucity of foreign exchange, fuel and electricity prices and inputs.

“Due to ill-conceived policies of respective governments, 50 percent industrial units have closed down, rendering their millions of laborers jobless,” said President Brick Kilns Owners’ Association Chaudhary Abdur Razzaq.

“There were 600 brick kilns in Faisalabad district but now only 300 are functional. Closure of other 300 kilns had rendered thousands of workers jobless.”

Aslam Meraj President Textile Power Looms Association informed that industrial activity had decreased to almost 40 percent. “Some industrialists have closed down their units whereas others minimized their production duration by reducing shifts almost to half.”

He said that 30 to 50 percent textile industry has shut their activities partially and if the government did not take remedial measures on an urgent basis, this situation might be aggravated, he apprehended.

Meanwhile, Chaudhary Muhammad Arshad Gujjar District President Labor Wing Jamat-e-Islami feared of increase in unlawful activities after thousands of workers going jobless. “When somebody or his kids starve, he knows no morality or fair means of earning. In such a situation, they feel themselves justified to indulge in activities like stealing, looting, plundering or even kidnapping.”

According to the statistics issued by the police department, 12960 criminals were arrested from Faisalabad during the first seven months of the current year including 1249 criminals during July 2023.

Although the police claimed to be performing well yet the statistics revealed that the criminal activities increased due to rising unemployment. Therefore, the government and its concerned departments should seriously concentrate on this issue otherwise it would become a volcano for our society.

Commenting on this situation, renowned technocrat Prof Dr Jalal Arif suggested to devise comprehensive plans to impart the latest skills to our workforce falling within the age bracket of 19 to 40 years as they form 60 percent of the total population.

“This force should be capitalized by imparting them different skills. If we didn’t equip the youth with productive skills, they might engage in irrelevant and unproductive activities,” he stressed.

He said since the global scenario was changing rapidly so we cannot survive among comity of nations with un-skilled and semi-skilled workforce. “Let us move forward by keeping in mind international requirements and compulsions, if we really desire to survive.”

The situation is gruesome and challenging and needs immediate attention of the patriotic Pakistanis. Although they are very few, yet even they can matter if move forward with courage and commitment.

APP/iah/maz (APP Feature Service)

APP Services