Violence takes its toll but Karachi still the destination of choice

People from Punjab are the only ones migrating back from the financial capital.

Farhan Zaheer August 27, 2011


With security conditions deteriorating to new highs in recent years, the financial capital of the country may have temporarily slipped from being the city of choice to find a job for the country’s workforce. However, experts say that the city still remains the preferred destination because of job opportunities and fairly higher wages than the rest of the country.

At least three to four million daily-wagers work in the city’s industrial sector, according to Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Violence has surely hit those workers who were planning to move to the city, said NUST Business School Dean Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan. This has coincided with the dismal performance of the economy over the last three years with the GDP growth rate dropping to historical lows.

Karachi being a commercial centre creates jobs for skilled and unskilled workers in the industries and services sector. Moreover, with a population of 18-20 million, the city has the largest economies of scale in the country which makes it one of the cheapest cities in the region, to live in, he said

“Karachi is the growth engine of Pakistan,” he said.

The average one-day income of a worker in Karachi is Rs425 – the highest in the country – while in most other cities it remains around Rs350 per day, according to a government research.

Economists say that availability of jobs is the primary factor that attracts workers to Karachi, and is a more important than the difference in the wage.

In recent years, many people from Punjab who were working in Karachi have returned to their home cities, along with industry that has been shifted from Karachi to Punjab. However, because the level of industrialisation in K-P is still low, a large number of workers continue to migrate to Karachi for jobs, Hasan said.

Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research Executive Director Karamat Ali said that the last five or six years have been turbulent for upper parts of the country. For instance, the earthquake, floods and military operations caused a mass migration of people from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) to Karachi.

Zia Abbas, a lecturer at the Applied Economic Research Centre (AERC), University of Karachi said that it was highly unlikely that a worker would leave Karachi simply because of the recent violence.

More than 300 people were killed in July this year because of violence in the country’s main commercial hub.

Like any other cosmopolitan city, research shows that workers who live alone in Karachi have a higher tendency to become involved in incidents of arson and looting, he said.

He added that research conducted by the AERC shows that workers who are living with their families are less prone to violence.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.