Approximately 1.2 million jobs could be created indirectly in Pakistan because of agreed projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), media reports have said.
The CPEC has been blamed for causing a debt trap and economic distress in Pakistan, but facts have proved that the recent surge in Chinese investment is yielding employment benefits.
This is a hard-won achievement, but 1.2 million jobs aren't enough. While the first phase of the CPEC concentrated on infrastructure projects, the second part should focus on employment creation by setting up special economic zones (SEZs) and supporting economic integration. The CPEC needs to accelerate the shift of its focus to provide more jobs for Pakistani people.
Although there has been much controversy about the CPEC over issues such as an uneven distribution of interests among Pakistani people, the project can only move forward. But it won't be plain sailing due to challenges such as Pakistan's foreign exchange crisis and security problems, and people should be prepared for potential setbacks. However, as long as the CPEC creates a lot of jobs, it will win the favor of Pakistani people.
The construction of transportation infrastructure under the CPEC framework has created many jobs for local people. This is obviously good news for the country's poverty alleviation campaign. However, infrastructure work provides mainly limited-term employment.
It takes time to complete infrastructure construction, but the country will see a substantial decrease in job creation in the future if it relies heavily on infrastructure construction to generate employment. With about 200 million people, Pakistan needs long-term employment opportunities.
The CPEC has its weak points, but it also offers unique advantages. The CPEC is designed to connect Gwadar Port in southwest Pakistan with China's inland areas, offering another shipping option for Chinese importers and exporters. Working on the CPEC's SEZs should be stepped up to promote Pakistan's manufacturing sector and its industrialization, making the country a new important exporter to China. This will provide more long-term jobs for local Pakistani people.
However, efforts by Chinese companies to expand local production may be hampered by factors such as security problems and the lack of skilled workers. If the Pakistani government can keep improving the business environment for manufacturers, the CPEC may play a better role in yielding employment benefits for local people.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times.