Pakistani employees of online marketplace company Kaymu at work in Karachi. PHOTO: AFP

Why Pakistan’s hiring culture is scaring away its millennials

If the job market is booming, then why did over 3.7 million Pakistanis leave the country to seek opportunities abroad?

Khushal Piracha December 23, 2017
Pakistan’s recent economic growth has attracted widespread attention from international investors and organisations. According to the World Bank, Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is expected to climb to 5.2% in 2017 and will continue to rise for the next two years. As economic growth prevails, so do establishment of new jobs, both managerial and labour-oriented.

A research paper titled ‘Determination of Youth Emigration’, written by Ammad Zafar in 2016 of Karachi University’s public administration department, claims that 48.7% of Pakistani youth do not want to stay in the country. The main trends were youth views on unemployment, insecurity, economic problems, and lack of social support and career opportunities. Out of these reasons, 90% of youth were uncertain of opportunities available for them in Pakistan.

In the same study, Zafar pointed out that in the last six years, more than 3.7 million Pakistanis have left the country to seek opportunities abroad, with the figures increasing each year. In 2015, approximately one million people left the country. Majority of these individuals were between the ages of 18-25.

So this begs the question: If the job market is booming, why is the youth of Pakistan uncertain of job opportunities? Why are they choosing more developed markets over Pakistan?

As an unemployed Pakistani youth falling in this category, here are some questions that you must be asking, and some explanations for those inquiries:

Am I there yet?

Although Pakistan has a plethora of professional jobs, it also has a significantly higher number of university graduates and skilled labour than ever before. Although a small percentage of young individuals succeed with their formal higher education, the supply has definitely exceeded the demand. Many large and even small companies recruit at the best colleges/universities in the nation. So even with your college degree, you may not even be considered at certain companies.

Is that a no?

While it is much better than a few years ago, the hiring culture in Pakistan still cannot cope with the formalities of recruiting. Many large companies in Pakistan still have the archaic system of emailing your resumes to apply for a position. Many atimes, employees simply cannot filter through all the applicants. They discard Curriculum vitae (CVs) and resumes based on the universities individuals have gone to or their GPA, without ever looking through their work history or experience. However, even if the applicants have been interviewed and don’t succeed in landing the job, they are most likely to not be informed.

In my personal experience, this is probably the most frustrating experience. Human Resource (HR) individuals have to consistently be called or reminded by applicants themselves to inform them of their rejection. It shows a total lack of respect for their time and reflects extremely negatively on the company. This has been true for nine out of 10 companies that I have personally interviewed with.

So…what’s my pay?

Employee salaries in Pakistan are a constant cause of concern for individuals who pay large sums of money to attend the best institutions in the country. New graduates often find themselves working in large and expensive cities like Karachi and Lahore within a Rs45,000 monthly salary. Many graduates end up in uncertain situations. One can either accept the job and wait for a raise, or reject the offer and be uncertain about when the next opportunity opens up. It’s also general knowledge for HR departments that many young graduates may leave within a year or two and a new wave of graduates will apply for the same jobs, at the same salary and repeat the whole process.

Can we change that?

Many individuals who entered the skilled workforce in the 70s and 80s found a ‘sweet spot’. They were a minority of educated individuals with managerial skills and knowledge of formal processes. While they gained experience and worked up the corporate ladder, new technology and innovation spread outside their workplaces. Social media and online learning gave access to everyone to gain knowledge of skills most needed in the workplace. So when millennials join the workforce, they find themselves at odds with senior management. Many atimes, new opinions and ideas are sidelined to maintain a status quo.

According to PwC Annual Report 2016millennials are expected to constitute more than 50% of the global workforce by 2020. Hence begs the question: Why are organisations not investing time in understanding millennials?

Establishing trainee programs is only the first step. There needs to be a total overhaul of HR departments, starting at larger firms and a further increase in salaries for fresh graduates. Additionally, management surveys and meetings should be coordinated on a regular basis to resolve issues faster and more productively. Lastly, recruiting departments should be regularly trained and reminded to respond to candidates promptly so they don’t miss out on new talent. They should get to know new recruits on a personal level so they can better help candidates visualise long-term careers with the company and not look for the first ticket abroad as soon as they enter the workplace.

Employing young individuals is the way forward. However, if these individuals feel the general hiring culture is holding them back, they’ll leave for better opportunities abroad at the first chance they get.
Khushal Piracha The author is a Supply Chain graduate from The University of Texas at Austin. He is currently running a small startup based in Karachi called Honest Market, aiming to provide health conscious products at a more affordable price.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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zafars | 2 years ago | Reply | Recommend While there may be other reasons, the fact that employment is generally not merit based but your social class or where you live is a certain damper. Many with these characteristics move abroad because there they do not face these hurdles.
Yogi Berra | 2 years ago | Reply | Recommend 48% of young people want to leave Pakistan. This is a vote of 'No confidence" in the country. It tells us that the majority of young people have no confidence in their country and are not very optimistic about their future in the country. It is telling. You can create a nation based on religion but if you do not create vibrant, democratic, secular economy then the country descends into chaos.
MJ | 2 years ago I am pretty sure India, that you are probably comparing Pakistan to, has similar kinds of numbers if you ask their youth the same question.
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