Pakistan’s pace of development during the last three years has seen some unprecedented highs. This is primarily attributable to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which through its USD 65 billion investment is generating economic activity through all sectors of the economy. As economic activity increases, it translates into employment generation. When we talk of employment under CPEC, the first thing to consider is how it is being generated, and in which sectors. For this reason, in this blog we have adopted a sector-wise approach to understand patterns associated with employment generation under CPEC.
CPEC is fast reaching completion in Pakistan
The first phase of CPEC was from 2015 to 2020, when infrastructural and energy projects were constructed. The start of year 2021 for CPEC has been highlighted as a milestone for ensuring people-to-people connectivity, which essentially means that a series of business investments are coming into different sectors of Pakistan’s economy. This will create opportunities for business-to-business collaboration; and allow Pakistani locals to expand their operations, while at the same time creating opportunities.
The most prominent example of this is the establishment of Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which are dedicated areas for setting up of industries and manufacturing units. There are four main SEZs under which work has already begun, however, more are proposed to be constructed and operationalized soon.
The main idea behind the SEZs is to set up industries specific to the area they are based in. This gives competitive advantage to the SEZs, and also ensures a steady supply of skilled laborers. In this way, the SEZs aim to harness the existing potential of the areas they are based in. Moreover, in order to facilitate businessmen, all enterprises under the SEZs have been exempted from taxes for 10 years.
However, work on colonization of the SEZs is still underway, and much of the skilled labor is being utilized in various sectors as CPEC projects assume fast pace.
Gwadar poised to become an economic hub
Employment statistics have increased in CPEC areas where development projects are being pursued at a fast pace. Already, over 75,000 locals have been given jobs under various CPEC projects, while experts predict that by the year 2030, 2.3 million jobs for locals will be created.
Chairman CPEC Authority, Lt Gen (retd.) Asim Saleem Bajwa has also highlighted that through CPEC, Pakistani has been able to boost production under the agricultural and industrial sectors, as well as create job opportunities in the energy sector.
Let’s dig deeper into these statistics to understand which have been the most beneficial under CPEC.
The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is being labelled as CPEC For All because of how it’s going to provide job opportunities for everyone; the skilled and unskilled labor. For this reason, we look at the various sectors where jobs are being created.
Infrastructure is rapidly being developed under CPEC
A 2018 study, titled “Employment Generation and Labour Composition in CPEC and Related Road Infrastructure Projects,” by Dr. Shahid Rashid, Muhammad Muzammil Zia and Shujaa Waqar, notes the following statistics on CPEC’s infrastructural jobs.
Under CPEC, infrastructure, being one of the two sectors where investment first came in, has developed rapidly. In the first phase, six early harvest projects were introduced. These are:
As of 2018, for KKH, 7,800 jobs were created, with a 76% percent share of Pakistani professionals.
In the Multan-Sukkur section of Peshawar-Karachi Motorway 15,174 people were employed. Meanwhile, in the Lahore-Multan section, 17,246 jobs were created. In the former project, Pakistani employees account for 91.5% of the total number while, in the latter project, more than 96% of the jobs belonged to Pakistanis.
The upgradation of D.I Khan is divided into five phases, all of which employed a total number of 6,700 people, all Pakistanis.
The Faisalabad-Multan Motorway comprises two packages, which employed 3,640 total laborers; only 97 of which were Chinese.
During the construction and operationalization of E-35 Expressway, 1,020 people were employed with 98% participation from Pakistanis.
Another key project in this regard is the Orange Line Metro, Pakistan’s first electric train system, which, as it operates, will continue to contribute towards the socio-economic well being of the area.
Significant progress has been made in the energy sector of Pakistan as a part of CPEC
Under CPEC, 22 energy projects have been finalized. Of these 22, nine have been completed and are operational.
The first project to be completed is the Sahiwal Coal Power Plant. Moreover, in 2021 it has been announced that Pakistan has attracted about 50% of total BRI’s renewable energy investments.
For this reason, projects such as Karot Hydropower project and Jhimpir Wind Farm have been introduced in the country. Overall, Pakistan and China have 24 cooperation projects with a scale of 12,282 MW of energy.
Overall, there are 10 prioritized (or early harvest) energy projects, while 4 have been newly added which are primarily renewable energy projects including Kohala Hydel Project, Cacho Wind Power Project, Western Energy Ltd Wind Power Project, and Azad Pattan Hydel Project. These are in line with PM Imran Khan’s vision of having a share of 60% of renewable energy by 2030.
Overall, this mix of energy projects has ensured that there are plenty of job opportunities for locals. For the 16 ongoing energy projects more than 73,000 people have been employed so far. Of this number, the share for locals stands at 63%.
These projects have added over 6GW of electricity to the national grid, making load shedding a relic of the past in Pakistan.
Potential job opportunities, in terms of skilled labor, include openings for the following positions:
Pakistan’s agriculture is boosting under CPEC
There are talks of Pakistan-China cooperation in the agricultural sector as well, since this sector has been included in CPEC projects. As Chinese have expressed interest in Pakistan’s high-quality dairy and meat products, the proposed plans include developing cold storage and food processing facilities, which will enhance productivity in livestock and fisheries sectors as well. Moreover, the Deputy Consul General of Pakistan in Chengdu has also expressed Chinese interest in setting up slaughterhouses in Pakistan. These slaughterhouses will enable meat processing to be done in line with international standards.
For crops, China has promised provision of high-quality machinery as well as seeds and herbicides to boost production of Pakistan’s major cash crops, such as wheat, rice etc. In addition to this, Chinese farming experts are also working to introduce maize-soybean intercropping techniques as soybean is a staple for most Chinese households. Similarly, sea rice along coastal regions, edible floral landscaping, and planting of fruits and vegetables will also take place. Already, Pakistani mangoes and cherries have made their way into China, and as tastes are acquired, there is a greater demand for even more locally-produced fruits and vegetables.
Recently, a pilot project for chili farming was recently completed, and is based on 100 acres of land. According to CPEC Authority Chairman, Asim Saleem Bajwa said that during the next phase 3,000 acres of land will be cultivated with chillies.
All of these initiatives are part of the China-Pakistan Agricultural Cooperation Pilot Zone which is to be up during five years. Under this program, a China-Pakistan food industrial park will also be established in 5 to 10 years, to promote the condiment industry of both countries.
While farmers will benefit from these plans, it’s also going to open up opportunities for agricultural scientists, who play a vital role in increasing productivity and sustainability of crops and animals.
The incumbent government is working to introduce a number of IT initiatives in Pakistan. While many have been launched, various are underway such as the Smart Village Initiative. In addition to these, the Digital Silk Route (DSR) will soon transform how trade is done between Pakistan, China and the entire Europe.
The DSR is aimed at facilitating telecommunications networks, artificial intelligence capabilities, cloud computing, e-commerce and mobile payment systems, surveillance technology, smart cities, and other high-tech areas, for all member countries. As Pakistan makes significant headway towards IT acquisition, it is with China’s cooperation that Pakistan’s IT landscape will significantly improve. Already during the coronavirus pandemic, e-commerce and e-banking has experienced a boom. With Chinese investment and unique skills, more job opportunities and investment avenues will open up.
In recent years, Pakistan’s tourism has expanded leaps and bounds. For this reason, the incumbent government is working toward upscaling its religious tourism which carries immense significance for Hindu communities, Sikhs, and Buddhists as a large number of historical religious sites are located here.
To uncover religious synchronism with China, extensive plans are underway for reviving the ancient Gandhara Trail. This will be of paramount importance for not just the Chinese, but Buddhists located in any part of the world.
This is a Buddhist monastery at Takht-i-Bhai
Apart from religious tourism, there are numerous opportunities for expanding the tourism industry of Pakistani under the country’s collaborative efforts with China. This comes primarily from rebuilding and connectivity efforts in Pakistan’s remote areas, such as Balochistan. Already Gwadar is seeing an influx of tourists as development projects in Balochistan are underway. Rapid infrastructural development is paving the way for tourists to access Sindh and Balochistan’s pristine beaches. Of these, Gadani Beach remains one of the most popular spots.
Already tourism in Pakistan employs a great number of people and with newer initiatives like these, this number is bound to grow.