The coronavirus pandemic has brought about another kind of pandemic in its wake. It is the pandemic of job losses in most developing countries of the world, including Pakistan, and this is no less serious than the pandemic that is causing a dreaded illness and death on a large scale. A survey conducted by the government has revealed that 27.31 million workers—around half of the country’s total workforce — have been affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Of these, 37% of the workforce either lost their jobs or could not get another job. Of all the provinces, Khyer-Pakhtunkhwa has been hit the hardest where 55% of the working population either lost jobs or saw a drop in their incomes. Around 12% of the workforce experienced a drastic decrease in their incomes.
Many left cities and towns after the pandemic-induced lockdowns were imposed leaving their jobs and small businesses that they ran there. Forced by these circumstances, workers who had been earning sufficient to support their families and themselves returned to their native places where many of them are now earning a fraction of what they had been making in their jobs in cities. Those who worked in factories are now working as farmhands in villages. Those engaged in small businesses were compelled to close their shops because the shut shops did not bring in income but the rent had to be paid. There are jobless workers who had to spend money on the treatment of family members who suffered from Covid-19. Many met these expenses by obtaining loans from others.
The ever-rising prices have made life miserable for ordinary people. People’s incomes are shrinking sharply as a result of imposition of taxes and the increase in petroleum prices at short intervals. The government is silent as to how many jobs it has created or intends to create in order to provide work to those rendered jobless as result of the coronavirus pandemic. The situation is nightmarish for the unemployed and under-employed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2021.
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