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The Tragedy of Engineers in Pakistan; A Brigade of Unemployed Youth

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The plight of engineers in Pakistan; A brigade of unemployment

Engineering is the application of science to the optimum conversion of the resources of nature to the advantage of humankind.

It is the creative application of “scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design, or to forecast their behaviour under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.”

Who are engineers? Engineers, as practitioners of engineering, are professionals who invent, design, analyze, build and test machines, complex systems, structures, gadgets and materials to fulfil functional objectives and requirements while considering the limitations imposed by practicality, regulation, safety and cost. The word engineer (Latin Ingeniator) takes derivation from the Latin words ingeniare (to contrive, devise) and Ingenium (cleverness). The foundational qualifications of an engineer typically include a four-year bachelor’s degree in an engineering discipline, or in some jurisdictions, a master’s degree in an engineering discipline plus four to six years of peer-reviewed professional practice (culminating in a project report or thesis) and passage of engineering board examinations. A professional engineer is typically a person registered under an Engineering Council.

Are engineers not significant contributors to the modern world? They believe that Engineers don’t sit back and watch – they make things happen. Engineering graduates are impacting the world like any other by using innovation, creativity and a wealth of knowledge.

The world is changing, and engineers are behind this development. The majority of today’s services and products had some engineering element involved in their conception, at least paving the way to long, fulfilling and healthy lives for the people they influenced.

Engineers must be critical yet creative, curious yet capable, and ready to handle the constantly changing world.

The wide range of disciplines that fall under the engineering title means that no matter the prospective student’s interest, there’s bound to be one facet of the sector they’ll find enticing and engaging. Whether it’s civil, electrical, chemical or mechanical engineering if you like tinkering, creating, designing or building, the engineering sector has a place for you.

In an advanced technological world, engineers need to bring ideas into reality. By applying the principles of mathematics and science, engineers develop solutions to the world’s most significant technical issues.

 Engineers contribute to humanity’s cause by building new bridges, developing electrical sockets for refugee camps, working on special effects for blockbuster movies, or testing aircraft and aerospace products. With a myriad of positions open to engineers in almost every field, graduates happily welcome the massive choice of careers they have the potential to explore.

The engineering portfolio knows no bounds, but these people are all working toward the same common goal: building a sustainable world.

However, this has yet to be the case in Pakistan. Pakistan Engineering Council PEC is the regulatory body of engineers in Pakistan. Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) is a statutory regulatory body established in 1976 under an Act of Parliament to regulate the engineering profession across the country. The legislation empowered it to perform its functions as an autonomous body with the vision that the engineering profession shall be a critical driving force for achieving rapid and sustainable growth in all national, economic and social fields. The functions of PEC are to improve the quality of engineering education, accreditation and professional system, synchronizing with the best international standards and practices recognized by prestigious engineering Institutions/ Accords and Organizations. The performance of PEC is average despite the obligation of core functions of providing quality engineering education. PEC should focus more on research and qualitative standards. It is imperative to enhance practical research and project management in engineering. Engineering education quality is decreasing, and graduates find it even harder to find jobs in a squeezed job market. However, the central issue of engineers and engineering education is the unemployment of engineers.

Engineers in Pakistan are facing a grave situation due to the country’s lack of employment opportunities. According to a report by the Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC), published in March 2021, over 100,000 engineers were jobless in the country.

In some cases, graduates of the year 2015 are without jobs, but they are still looking for jobs. The PEC is solely responsible for providing employment to engineers and regulating the industry. However, it has failed to stop unethical practices, such as selling engineering licences and ignoring the low wages of engineers.

Thousands of engineers sell their engineering licences at a throwaway price. For example, engineers sell their licence for one year at a ‘market price’ of Rs80,000. He said the reason was the job market’s poor condition. Mafias and agents are involved in these unethical practices, primarily conducted through social media groups.

Then, the PEC turned a blind eye towards this malice. It has yet to take any concrete steps towards curbing such malpractices, nor has it facilitated engineers in finding jobs while regulating the job market.

Another issue with the engineering profession, specifically civil engineers and others, is the low salary. The average salary contractors pay to engineers is about Rs20,000, which is less than even an unskilled worker’s minimum wage (Rs25,000 per month). However, contractors in their documentation to the PEC show the salary as Rs60,000 or even higher, supposedly paid to engineers.

The PEC needs to wake up, step in and fulfil its responsibilities of providing and creating jobs for engineers in Pakistan. It should demand monthly bank statements from the contractors to confirm whether or not they are paying the stated salaries to the engineers. This step will make it nearly impossible for the contractors to buy licences from engineers.

Most importantly, it will also resolve the issue of low salaries. Such steps will eradicate unethical practices from the engineering industry and help the government generate revenue through documentation of the economy.

However, the engineering profession is directly proportionate to the economy’s growth. The principles of growth, development, and manufacturing relating to all sectors of the economy are critical for economy and employment. Pakistan needs to invest more to address the country’s challenges. The share of investment to GDP remains minimal, about half of the South Asian average and one of the lowest in the world. It means insufficient infrastructure is being built, people need access to sufficient energy and water, and the quality of schools and hospitals is not optimal. More worryingly, private investment as a share of GDP has declined. Several factors are contributing to this low investment level. This state of affairs will cripple growth, and the job market will further squeeze. Pakistan needs to raise more revenue to have resources for critical investments.

Decentralization of service delivery will be crucial to improve competitiveness. One of Pakistan’s most significant assets is its large and young labour force. But this young population will contribute to higher and sustainable growth only if it’s healthy and well-educated. After the 18th Constitutional Amendment and the NFC award, these functions are devolved to the provinces. It will be necessary for the federal government and provinces to continue working together to improve the decentralization framework and ensure improved service delivery to achieve desired outcomes. Improving the business environment will be necessary to tap into foreign resources. 

It will be essential to accelerate the implementation of reforms: The government must implement several reforms to improve the investment climate and diversify the investment portfolio. These include efforts to revive the privatization efforts, which will increase management efficiency, improve service delivery and make space for private participation. The government should employ reforms to improve access to and quality of electricity and simplify and make the tax regime more transparent. It will be essential to accelerate these and other reforms for growth to create jobs, provide better services to the public and ultimately reduce extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity in Pakistan.

The job creation of engineers hinges on the growth of the economy. Then, the role of regulators is also critical. The contractors and business mafia should refrain from exploiting the engineers. The most vital part is not to provide jobs to engineers but to raise them as entrepreneurs and owners of engineering firms and companies. The critical solution is ensuring that only engineers grow engineering firms and companies. The unskilled capitalistic mafia should refrain from exploiting the engineers. Engineers must raise their voices for their rights to build housing schemes, infrastructure and urban development as leaders of firms and companies. They should also lead agriculture, farming, information technology and other engineering fields. It will help improve the economy and growth of Pakistan. Last but not least, engineers are the builder of a nation.      

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