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Recruitment Practices in Pakistan


By: 
Date: March 30 2003

Written in response to a suggestion by David Creelman, this article introduces the reader with the prevailing recruitment environment and practices in Pakistan. This also encompasses existing problems and potential challenges for the employer and the recruit, for organizational management, the labor market, macro-economic interests and human resource development in general.

HR - A New Term in Pakistan

Recruitment is the process of attracting suitable candidates for employment. Selection is choosing the best fit among the available candidates. An ideal recruitment and selection policy exhibits an organization´s commitment to a methodical and reliable approach to attract, select, and retain the most capable staff through open competition on merit and a fair selection process.

In the globalization era, there is a greater need to recruit quality staff in the organizations to remain competitive in the market. For example in the year 2005, the quota system for Pakistani textile exports largely to the west comes to an end, and the survival of the fittest in the international textile market begins. This means that about 2 ½ years down the road, the global textile trade will be an entirely different ball game than it is now. The end of the quota system poses a big challenge to the textile industry in Pakistan. They have to become far more innovative and competitive, in order to cut down their costs, and improve their quality to thrive in the world market. They need better human resources to achieve this goal. Thus a proactive recruitment policy needs to be undertaken by the organizations instead of the conventional ´gut and objectivity´ based self-contradictory practice of hiring.

The entire concept of HR is new for the Pakistani organizations and there is little education or awareness about the role HR can play in the re-structuring and uplifting their infrastructure. One example is worth quoting. As the author of this article joined a huge textile set-up in Lahore in 2001 to create and head the HR department, many employees misconstrued HR as an abbreviation for Human Rights.

Conventional Recruitment Channels

The system of recruitment and selection in an ordinary Pakistani organization is not very structured. Oftentimes a retired officer of Pakistan Army in his mid-fifties heads the administration and personnel department in a typical Pakistani industry. HR is perceived as a part of the administration that results in the formulation and introduction of spontaneous and ad hoc human resource practices. This is against the basic rule of independence of the policy makers from the executive. There is little HR planning and forecasting. Recruitment criteria become hazy in the absence of a proper job analysis; and no reliable information about job description and employee specification is available.

There are only a few external recruitment agencies; they too possess little experience and accomplishment to their credit. The state-run employment exchanges, once a major source of providing jobs to the skilled and unskilled workforce, have dissipated owing to a lack of interest on the part of successive governments and an overall decline in the employment opportunity in the country. Two provincial governments (Punjab and NWFP) have already closed down the institution, while the employment exchanges in Balochistan and Sindh have become ineffective due to poor service and track record. Faced with the problems of funding and low number of openings, these exchanges have lost both contact and credibility with public and private sector organizations.

As an alternate to the employment exchanges, large organizations customarily rely on placing advertisements in the Sunday editions of the leading national dailies in Urdu and English languages. Jobs in the government sector are advertised as a regulatory requirement. However a wide number of jobs in the private sector are still filled up without any advertisement, with the candidates having personal references in the organization.

Overview of Economy

Pakistan is a low income country confronted with multifaceted challenges of low GDP growth, insufficient infrastructure for investment, increasing burden of debt, heavy military spending, rapidly rising population, low literacy rate and recurring government instability. However the most serious issue in the recruitment perspective is the failure of economy to create jobs in pace with the growth of working age population. GDP in 1993 was US$50.8 billion or about 408 US dollars per capita. From 1987 to 1993, GDP growth rate averaged 5.3%. The industry employed about 13% of the labor force in 1993 and the industry''s share of GDP rose from 8 percent in 1950 to 21.7 percent in 1993. The services sector (including construction, trade, transportation and communications, and other services) accounted for the rest of GDP (53.3%) in 1993 and employed 39% of labor force. For the year 2001, GDP was estimated to be at 3.3%. Following table gives a brief overview of GDP and GNP growth in the recent years:

GROWTH IN GDP
Small and medium organizations form 90% of businesses with an active presence in services and manufacturing sectors. This makes about 80% of industrial employment, contributing 30% to the GDP and generating 25% of the sector''s export earnings. Its contribution to value-added in the manufacturing sector has risen from 27% to 83%, meaning productivity improvements in the last two decades. It is a source for employment at lesser cost with low capital investments.

Pakistan today is caught in a ''debt trap''. This entails a high level of interest payments that amplify the budget deficit. This has to be financed by correspondingly larger borrowings, which add to the debt and so on. This has resulted in a fundamental macroeconomic imbalance, the ''crowding out'' of the private sector and a decline in private investment due to rise in interest rates and inflation. Outstanding external debt is in the vicinity of 300% of foreign exchange earnings. The debt servicing amounts to about 55% of total annual expenditure. This has resulted in about one third of population livings below poverty line. Between 1990 and 2000 the number of absolute poor rose from 24 million to about 45 million.

International Business Environment

With a huge population of above 145 millions, Pakistan is strategically located in South Asia and the Middle East, neighboring India, China, Afghanistan, Iran and its Arab allies across Arabian Sea. Located right at the opening of Persian Gulf, its Karachi and Gwadar ports offer huge potential for international trade and merchandise.

USA and Japan are the leading trading partners. In 1993 United States accounted for 13.7 percent of total exports and 11.2 percent of imports. Japan accounted for 6.6 percent of exports and 14.2 percent of imports. Germany, Britain, Saudi Arabia, China and Hong Kong are other important trading partners.

In 1995-96, more than two-third of Pakistan''s imports comprise petroleum and its products, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, iron and steel products, edible oils, and grains, pulses, and flour. The cotton product is the largest contributor to Pakistan''s total exports with a share of over 53 per cent in total exports in 1997-98 from 48 per cent in 1969-70. Other significant contributors to Pakistan''s exports are: rice, carpets and rugs, sports goods, and leather/leather goods.

The direction of international trade has changed since the 1970s and Pakistan´s import dependence on the US has decreased. The OIC and the EU have emerged as the major exporters to Pakistan in the last two decades. The reduction in the country''s dependence on primary merchandise (now 13 per cent of the exports) and augmentation of manufactures´ share (70 per cent) are signs of major improvement in the economy. Pakistan''s trade was 5.6 per cent of GDP in 1996-97, but it decreased to 2.35 per cent in 1997-98 due to a decrease in the value of imports during that year.

Country´s largest Karachi Stock Exchange´s performance has been quoted as the best in the Business Week´s issue dated 23 September 2002. Pakistan´s Finance Advisor Shaukat Aziz recalls telling former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, now president of Harvard University: "If you have some extra savings, put 0.001 percent there (Karachi Stock Exchange).

Exchange rate: Pakistani rupees per US dollar = 56 (January 2003)

Labor

In 1991, Pakistan had an estimated total workforce of 40.4 million, out of which 44% were in Agriculture, 17% in industry and 39% in other services. Industrial production growth rate is about 7% per year.

Among the countries having population more than 1 million, Pakistan ranks 14th in the population growth rate with a figure of 2.8% per year. In the last fifty years, there has been rapid growth in the labor force owing to a rapid growth in the population. In 1993, around 48% of the civilian labor was engaged in agriculture, 13% in industry, 7% in construction, 13% in merchandise, 5% in transportation and communications, and 14% in other services. Wage earners accounted for only 25% of the official labor force, which is a high rate for casual and self-employment in a country. The rate of growth in agriculture has not been consistent with the population growth. The industrial sector employment has risen but that too has been unable to accommodate the entire workforce in the country. This has resulted in the problem of unemployment and underemployment. The latter issue is prevalent particularly in agriculture, construction and trade.

This is perhaps one of the right economic indicators that the population growth is coming in control gradually. Though the life expectancy has increased from 44% in 1960 to 63% in 1998, the population growth rate has still decreased from 3.2 to 2.4% per annum during last few years. This will have a positive effect in the employment situation in the country in the long run.

Unemployment

Unemployment rate was estimated to be 6.3% in 2001. In spite of increased economic activity and a high population growth, the employment rate between 1993-99 has not been proportionate. In contrast to 32.4 million employees in 1993, the number rose by only 18.9% to a figure of 38.6 million employees in 1999. About two third of the employed workforce is in the rural sector, and only 12% are women. About 31% of the population used to live in cities in 1995 and this figure has been forecast to reach 50% by the year 2020. Urban unemployment rate is higher than the rural one.

Unemployment increased from 4.73 per cent in 1993 to 6.10 percent in 1999. However the figure of unregistered unemployment and under-employment at that time was estimated between 10 to 20 per cent. This situation becomes worse when we take into account the upward trend in population. Pakistan´s population growth rate is 2.4% and ironically the manpower growth rate is further out of proportion i.e. 2.7%. That means that almost one million people add to our total manpower each year.

The World Bank in its latest draft report, "Poverty in Pakistan: Vulnerabilities, Social Gaps and Rural Dynamics" stated that employment diversification, certain kinds of informal employments and the labor market distortions are associated, and indeed connected with susceptibility and poverty. This report points out certain social groupings such as caste, kinship and ''Biradari'' (fraternities) that influence the performance of the labor markets. The report urges the government to work out policy options to cure such problems (breach of merit and equal opportunity for example), through a cultural change secured by suitable legislation. IBRD report also identifies two possible reasons for discrimination during employment. Firstly, it is costly and in some cases cumbersome to obtain information about an individual applicant. Thus the employers may use their own prejudices or informal feedback readily available (stereotyped) about the particular group the individual comes from. Secondly, the employers have a tendency to hire workers with a social collateral i.e. networking or fraternity relationship. In Pakistan this is known as ´Sifarish´ (personal recommendation) or ´Biradri´ (fraternity). This culture prevails due to a fragile value system and a weaker rule of law in the country. The effect is the most regressive and unfavorable for the poor.

The Government has appealed to the private sector to come up with job creating investment. They expect the management of small and medium industries to come up in this regard as they need less capital than large-scale industries and have to maintain lower loan ratios than large-scale industries. But their pace of expansion or installation is slower than required and they perceive bank loans too expensive.

Unfortunately some governmental polices have resulted in increased unemployment rate instead of controlling it. For example, structural adjustment program on the direction of international financing agencies resulted in reduction of public sector staff that increased poverty among the former wage earners. Thus instead of creating more jobs, the government was forced to downsize the existing organizations.

An ILO study about employment opportunity and productivity in Pakistan conducted in the late 1990s pointed towards low output growth rate and high employment in 1970s (by virtue of employment of a large number of Pakistanis in the Middle East), a high growth rate and stable employment growth till mid 80s, after which employment and growth rates saw many ups and downs. This study also reveals a decline in large scale manufacturing share in employment from 14% to 10% as compared to its contribution in GDP from 15% to 18%. This sector produces more than 67% of value added in manufacturing but it employs only 17% of about 4 million workers in manufacturing. On the other hand, the small-scale sector produces one-third of the value-added in manufacturing but employs 83% of the workforce.

In the decade ending 1993, private investment in manufacturing rose from 1.7% of GDP to 4.2%; it was capital intensive and labor efficient i.e. low number or workers required to produce a unit of output. Thus the organizational profits increased and wage share in output came down.

The share of labor force was recorded 37 million out of a total population of 135 million that indicated a low participation rate. The labor force contribution is declining and is currently 27 per cent. This signifies an increasing dependency ratio for the remaining population.

Educated Pakistanis are in general finicky about the type of job they apply for. In Europe or USA, educated people do not mind doing ordinary jobs in the absence of a suitable permanent employment in order to meet their day-to-day expenses. However in Pakistan, qualified people are more likely to run out of budget or may borrow money from their friends or relatives instead of affording themselves through small jobs in hard times.

Literacy

Pakistan has been spending an average of about 2% of GNP on education from 1985-2000 compared to a global practice of about 4 to 5%. The 1999-2000 budget allocated Rs.7.3 billion to education out of a total budget of Rs. 642 billion. However, the expenditure on education was increased from Rs0.9 billion in 1998-99 to Rs1.6 billion. Approximately three out of every ten graduates are without a suitable job. Literacy rate is about 30%; less than 5% of the population has completed ten years of studies and less than 2% have completed their graduation from a college. Among the foreign graduates, there is a very high ratio that opted to live abroad for their employment and is settled there.

A wide majority of the jobless Pakistanis is uneducated. This is a mere reflection of the fact that the literacy rate in Pakistan is poor in general. According to 1998 census, only 8.4 million people (6.1% of the total population) had studied up to class eight whereas only 12 million people (8.7% of the total population) had completed their education till primary level.

In 1990 adult literacy rate in the males was 46% as compared to 21% in the females. During 1986-1997, only 48% of the children enrolling in the primary schools reached grade 5 and about 2.7% of GNP was being spent on education. However, adult literacy is improving. In 1992 more than 36 % of adults over fifteen were literate, compared with 21% in 1970. This rating was done on a simple parameter of being able to read and write one´s name in any language.

In 1990 education was allocated 3.4 percent in the budget. This amount compared poorly with the 33.9 percent being spent on defense in 1993. In 1990 Pakistan was tied for fourth place in the world in its ratio of military expenditures to health and education expenditures.

During 1993-98, there were 50.8 million illiterate adults and 9.6 million out of school children. In the 1990s, the primary school enrolment rate has risen to 83 per cent, however about half of the enrolled children drop out before completing firs five years in school. Only about 17 per cent of primary school graduates enroll for secondary education; less than 2 per cent of the relevant age group enrolls for technical and vocational training; and there are huge gender gaps at all levels of education.

Though the vocational and technical education is a proven means to improve the productive capacity of individuals that results in higher production output, Pakistan is producing insufficient human resource with market-relevant technical skills. Generally any plans for technical and vocational education lack due appreciation of the employment situation or competencies required with the evolution in technologies. This has resulted in an unstable improvement of diverse technical education levels, with the higher levels expanding faster than the lower ones. This has also created a disparity between the output of institutions and the employment opportunities.

Popular Institutes and Degrees

Medicine and engineering have been traditionally two top most professions in Pakistan for decades. However recently a global change in business and career-planning has made students switch their priority to the disciplines of Business Administration, Finance and Information Technology. Leading business schools in Pakistan include Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, Institute of Business Administration in Karachi, BZU in Multan, Lahore University of Management Sciences and The University of Punjab in Lahore. Leading Information Technology Institutes include NUST, GIK Institute, FAST and UET, Lahore. Institute of Cost, Management and Accounting (ICMA) is a leading institute for the studies in Accountancy and Costing and has its branches in major Pakistani cities.

There is a large number of private institutes in the country offering degrees in business administration and information technology, however the degrees awarded by these institutes are not recognized by the public or reputable private sector organizations. The students who are unable to secure admission in a respectable institute due to high merit or unaffordable tuition fee apply in the second or third rated institutes to pursue fields of their choice; and in this quest are attracted by the heavy advertisement made by the private institutes. Unfortunately such graduates face a dismal situation as they apply for job after completion of their degrees. Most of the time they are screened out in shortlisting, and in the absence of a suitable ´Sifarish´ (personal recommendation), there is little chance that they would be considered for employment. However this is usually the case with the first-time applicant as it is relatively easy to find an ensuing job.

Selection Parameters

From HR perspective, a candidate´s academic background, training and experience are vital to evaluate his or her suitability for the job. Three related factors in this regard are KSA i.e. knowledge, skill and ability. Knowledge is the information that makes satisfactory performance on a job possible. Skill is the proficiency that can be easily measured and verified (e.g. typing, command on a language, operation on a machine etc). Ability is the capacity and the capability to perform and learn a specific duty at a specific time. Do Pakistani organizations in general keep these factors into account while considering a candidate for a job? The answer is negative with only a few exceptions of dynamic mostly multinational organizations in the country. Thus it is quite possible for a candidate to be in possession of qualification, training, experience and KSA that exceed the essential requirements described in the vacancy announcement and being not selected for an interview by the hiring department.

Normally the tendency in the line managers (client managers) requesting for an employee is to use a mix of gut and objectivity to select a suitable employee for a job. Interestingly both of these terms are self-contradictory. Conventionally the line managers are not ready to accept the idea that a systematic and scientific procedure is more reliable to help them find a suitable staff member. They normally act in order to judge a candidate by evaluating his fitness in the so-called organizational culture and the corporate strategy. They term the formal and standard HR selection and recruitment practices as bureaucratic, clerical and a waste of paper and time.

Line managers tend to outsource or recruit people with the informal sources of recruitment; for example: word of mouth, or through direct contact and ´bargaining´ with the recruit working somewhere else. This results in autonomy and unaccountability of their choice over a more eligible candidate. Ironically these line managers are apple of the chief executive´s eyes because of their core production services for the organization. Their opinion is prioritized by the decision makers to that of the ´welfare oriented unproductive human resource department´. This relegates the HR advisors and staff to a peripheral position in the organization and their role is contained to little or no authority. This would not be out of place to mention here (as has been the experience in some major organizations in the West) if the line managers assume the responsibility of equal employment principles in letter and spirit, then the devolution of hiring authority from HR to the line departments can be acceptable. But this is not the case in Pakistan at present where even the staff working in Personnel or HR is not suitably educated or trained about EEO issues, and to expect this from line managers would be unrealistic.

Another major constraint in Pakistan´s development activity is its huge workforce recruited on political basis in violation of merit. Instead of crating jobs, successive governments have been acting as employment exchanges to provide jobs to their political activists and supporters. We would like to quote one example in this regard. In 2002, the provincial government in Punjab announced to put five thousand posts in education and health sectors at the disposal of the members of provincial assemblies to be filled on their recommendations. This decision was termed as the last nail in the coffin of recruitment through merit. This has been feared that such practice will ratify political recruitment as a norm rather than an exception. Another challenge is the need to provide a better compensation packages to public sector employees in the form of fixed package and not discretionary funds or privileges that are often misused. Government also needs to strengthen the offices of the Ombudsman, the Public Accounts Committees and the Auditor-General in this pursuit.

We would like to quote one letter by an ordinary Pakistani written to the editor in daily Dawn on 19 April 2001, commenting on the recruitment practice in the country:

"............. The lopsided nature of the services and the flawed system of recruitment and influence paddling has played havoc with the discipline, efficiency and output of the services. I am sure, that the difference between the highest and lowest salary in Pakistan must be the highest in the world. This must be reduced to a reasonable level.

If the present government wants to ameliorate the condition of salaried class with limited and fixed income, it should take immediate steps to make basic changes in the recruitment policy, which should be one for all employees. In the case of pay and pension, all perks and allowances should be merged with the pay and the increase in pay should be linked with the increase in the cost of living as is done in other countries so that in case of increase in cost of living, the employees should not have to wait for establishment of pay and pension commission and its report!"

Resume Style

Resumes are not needed for manual and low-level jobs. For office based jobs and middle to senior positions, the organizations require a formal application in printed form alongwith a brief curriculum vitae by job applicants. Recommended style may be any one available in the resume formats offered by popular word processors. However the most trendy is the Elegant Resume format of Microsoft Word. In some organizations, besides CV, applicants are required to fill in a standard application form. The applicants are expected to write in a neat and legible manner as this suggests their organizing ability and clarity of mind.

In physical and low-level jobs, employers (hiring managers) are generally not interested in application letters or CVs and tend to evaluate the applicant practically on the machine or on the workplace before finalizing their appointments. Appointment letters are in general not issued in a large number of organizations in the private sector that is a violation of the law. For manual workers, single interviewer is the common practice whereas in the case of other recruits, normally an HR specialist alongwith the hiring manager (line manager) form the interview panel. In such panels, the line manager makes key decision, and the HR specialist´s role is not more than advisory. Sometimes, the interviewers may resort to unfair tactics to discourage or disqualify a short-listed recruit as the interview is conducted in an arbitrary manner and the applicants´ privacy or self-respect can be intruded. Apart from interviewer´s fairness, one-to-one interviews are also less reliable in terms of what is termed as dubious honesty of the applicants because of their ability to impress the interviewer beyond fact. In Pakistan, a significant number of applicants try to provide exaggerated or false information about them while applying for jobs.

Screening Test

Entry screening tests are more popular in the multinational firms and the established organizations in the public and private sector. Due to high unemployment ration (6.3%) in the country, these tests are very useful to shortlist the high number of applicants for an advertised job. Apart from the subject knowledge evaluation, tests conducted for recruitment in the most of the organizations comprise any or all of the following sections: General Knowledge, Mathematical and Analytical Skills, IQ, Situation Analysis and English. Generally a candidate applying for an office-based job is expected to have satisfactory command on written and spoken English, the level being advanced for higher echelon jobs. Typical general knowledge questions may be something like: Name of a provincial chief minister, capital or currency of a country, date of a birth of a national hero or some information about a recent important event. Mathematical questions are asked to judge the basic calculating knack of the candidate. IQ and situation analysis helps in understanding a candidate´s ability to act in extra ordinary situations during job. Generally the test is not computer based and the candidate is expected to write in a neat and legible manner. Sometimes some needy or desperate candidates write down their personal requests or beg for job in the test paper that is not given any importance, and is viewed as a weak part of their personality.

Interview

Pakistan is a high context society and a casual appearance in interviews is not appreciated by the prospective employer. This is against the practice in US or Australia where one can dress casually for some kinds of job interviews. For front desk or customer-oriented jobs, it is deemed obligatory for a candidate to wear necktie during interview. For blue collar or background jobs, the candidate can be less formal, however it is desirable for the candidate to put on a decent attire during interview, preferably with a necktie. Some interviewers prefer warm handshake while others deem a verbal greeting as satisfactory. In any case, the choice is with the interviewer. However shaking hands with females is not allowed on religious grounds. Normally interviews take between five to thirty minutes, but for some non-routine or sensitive jobs, interview process can take upto an hour. If you are a capable candidate, the best time for you to bargain with your prospective employer about your salary or benefits is during interview. In Pakistan, both the parties know this rule. However this bargaining power is available to only those candidates who are outstanding in their respective fields and there is little choice available to the employer in form of alternate to their employment.

Equal Employment Practices

Pakistani organizations in general do not offer equal employment opportunities to the candidates and there are wide spread incidents of discrimination against candidates on the basis of gender, religion, ethnic origin etc. Since the literacy rate in females is less than males, and there is only a limited presence of female employees in the organizations, it is not deemed suitable or safe for a female to be employed in a predominantly male set-up. This situation is nonetheless on the change in the organizations in the big cities where females can in general work better than males, for example in carpet manufacturing industry. The federal government has passed legislation against discrimination in employment, but this has not been implemented at a larger scale. Even if the EO principles are observed in an organization, the so-called jargons of ''circumstances'' and ''acceptability'' are used as a cover for inappropriate discrimination. This unfairness is practiced during shortlisting of applications as well as interviews. The shortlisting prejudices have also been observed in the federal and provincial government jobs to be filled through Public Service Commission.

EO in Pakistan is not a mere implementation issue, but is also faced with the challenge of better understanding and education at the institutional level. The decision makers need to be educated that EO is just not a human rights issue, and the relationship between organization procedures and the individual cognitive is bilateral. Current EO crisis in the country has its implication both for the employers and the recruits and at a wider scale the whole economic scale. With financial and productivity targets as the top most priority, an employer fails to understand that EO implementation can be to his own advantage as it will improve the quality of recruitment and selection in his organization that will contribute to cost effective decision making.

The management´s refusal to follow EO principles is incurring extensive cost, as it is also rending organizations inadequate to compete in an increasingly global market. This has resulted in the absence of a proactive response to the need for a quality staff that will promise competitiveness through quality production. HR is a complex field and ambiguity and ambivalence persist at each stage of evolution and progress towards a more just and effective management of human resources. Our study of HR evolution in Pakistani organizations suggest that, ironically and precariously, the promotion of objective recruitment and selection on merit is resorting, for credibility, to being implemented within the traditional recruiter''s agenda of conceptualization. This is more like eyewash than a sincere effort to practice EO.

Merit, unfortunately, does not come at the top while considering a candidate for employment. Most of the jobs are filled through personal connections of the candidates within the organization, thus compromising the quality of recruitment. Pakistan is a high context society and tribal and ethnic fraternities among people are influential enough to weaken the system of merit in recruitment. Another interesting factor to secure a job is the Alumni network of certain institutes. For example, in Karachi, an informal but very influential network of graduates of IBA (Institute of Business Administration) is in operation that is able to prioritize graduates of this institute for employment. Similarly alumni networks of LUMS and the Punjab University are operating in Lahore.

Irrespective of the pivotal ´key factor´, there is still a limited merit policy among the available candidates with the right connections or backgrounds. For example, a candidate with very low credentials or ability is normally not considered for employment irrespective of his connections. Similarly if competition is among the candidates of the same background or connections, merit becomes the final player in selection. This limited merit policy has an obvious disadvantage of not employing the best candidate available. On the other side, this policy also results in the employment of a staff member who owes his personal allegiance to the organization. Whereas an open merit candidate is a free bird that can always fly away whenever he feels fit; fraternity based employees seldom do that.

Communication Environment

Pakistan is a high context society and the traditional communication form is indirect. With the advent of ´cable television culture´ and growing awareness about global business practices, educated people are gradually embracing the direct approach of business communication. However in most of the cases, it is still deemed polite to use an indirect approach.

Islam is the state religion and it is obligatory to observe the sanctity of certain religious practices. For example, marketing and sale of alcohol, and wearing of ´inadequate´ dress is not allowed in the society. Muslims traditionally fast from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan and restaurants normally do not operate during these timings with the exception of serving the travelers or the sick. The strictness or leniency of religious values varies from one group of people to the other. Pushtuns in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan have comparatively rigid ideas about religion, however people in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad are more liberal and open-minded. Pakistani society in general is tolerant, with the exception of a marginal group of fundamentalists who are hard-core supporters of their own interpretation of religion.

Urdu is the national language in Pakistan. English is the second official language besides Urdu. Urdu in spoken form is similar to Hindi, the national language of India but their written scripts are entirely different. Normally jobs are not advertised by electronic media, however for defense forces, occasionally advertising cum motivational messages are broadcast through radio or television. Print media is the favorite means for advertisements. Recruiters in Pakistan prefer to advertise in leading Urdu and English newspapers. Top Urdu newspapers in Pakistan are: Daily Jang and Daily Nawai-waqt. Top English newspapers include: Daily Dawn, Daily The News and Daily The Nation.

If you want to publicize by electronic media, you may choose to advertise through PTV (Pakistan Television), ARY Digital or Geo TV. Foreign news channels frequently watched in Pakistan include: BBC World and CNN. Indian entertainment channels are also quite popular though government frequently announces ban or permission for their transmission through cable network.

Common Industrial Relations Practices

Generally the appointment letters are not issued to the employees at the time of their appointment in the private sector organizations. Similarly they are not served with any written intimation at the time of their departure (discharge or resignation) from the organization. There is a tendency to avoid issuing experience certificates to the individuals having served in the organizations.

The whole system of performance management or appraisal is missing in the majority of organizations. Even in the public sector where it is a legal requirement, superior officers try to avoid or delay writing ACRs (Annual Confidential Reports) of their subordinates as far as possible. This deprives the eligible employees to be considered for promotion or increment etc.

In some organizations, workers are not allowed to complete their consecutive three months in service, and are replaced with the new workers; or they are re-employed after a break of a few days or weeks. This is done in order to avert legally automatic confirmation of a worker in service after three months of continuous employment.

Job security is a far cry for employees at the lower echelons. The legal mechanism has not proven effective for the individual pleas in the past and more than 95% of the cases of violation of employees´ rights by the employers are not reported in a court of law. Apart from being unable to afford the court and lawyer fee and to sacrifice one´s breadwinning time, this is also due to lack of general awareness in the recruits about their rights and privileges under law.

The Federal Government introduced new labor policy in 2002 empowering labor courts to order re-instatement of illegally dismissed workers or award reasonable compensation in lieu of re-instatement. This policy also calls for extension and upgradation of vocational and industrial training programs to meet the changes of globalization and avoidance of unnecessary redundancies. A very important characteristic of new labor policy is strengthening bilateralism with least legislative and state intervention. This is expected to result in good employer-employee relationship through the strategy of interdependence by employers and employees and their mutual trust.

However there is still a need for a uniform law on conditions of employment applicable to all employment sectors laying down minimum standards and basic principles. The decision about other benefits should be decided by the organization concerned according to its own circumstances. However such benefits should not be decided unilaterally by the management (as is the current practice) but there should be employees´ participation in such decisions.

One aspect being criticized in the new labor policy is the so-called equitable compensation in lieu of reinstatement of an employee who is able to establish in the court that his dismissal was malafide. This has been termed as a blow to the security of employment and any guarantee against subjective terminations. There is one opinion that the new policy enables the employers to avoid the implementation of laws like minimum wages, bonus and security of employment. In their view, the introduction of the supposedly bilateral contract system aims to avoid collective bargaining and unionization, and may result in the disappearance of social welfare.

In the new policy, the organizations are required to define roles and responsibilities of the employer and the employee in terms of working hours, industrial or commercial routine, overtime, and implementation of the minimum wage of Rs 2,500 per month- to be revised every three years. The laws also promise protection of the employees hired on contract by redefining temporary jobs in accordance with prevailing international standards. The new policy also pledges equal opportunities for all. It categorically bans child and bonded labor, and discrimination on the basis of gender, sex, race etc.

There are other recent steps taken by the Pakistan Government that have improved the recruitment environment in Pakistan, like: National Policy and Plan of Action for Elimination of Child Labor (2000); National Policy and Plan of Action for the Abolition of Bonded Labor (2001); and endorsement ILO core labor Conventions 100 and 182.

Due to advent of global era and a growing need of being cost effective and competitive in the market, there is an increased trend in the public and private sector to outsource jobs of responsibility on contract basis. Contractual jobs offer good lump sump package and benefits in the short term but do not ensure a secure future for the employee. There has also been a recent trend of forced or voluntary golden shake hand in the organizations that has rendered many employees jobless in the last decade.


Jawad S. Naqvi is a human resource practitioner and is serving a textile factory in Lahore, Pakistan as Manager Human Resource Development.



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