The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor umbrella intends to provide a structural transformation in the region of Pakistan. Before the initiation of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, it has never been considered as an infrastructure specific project subject to the construction of some roads, bridges, etc. rather a developed structure of the business cycle has been established to run in the streamline of Pakistan. It includes up-gradation in the prevailing infrastructure followed by development in the energy sector to help facilitate industrial expansion and eventually export the produced goods through the port of Gwadar after establishing it. Therefore, the CPEC project starts from the production, transportation, and eventually, exports of goods produced under the “Industrial Estates” referred to as Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under CPEC.
Industrial Development in any country is considered a core element for an economy to sustainably grow. This growth is not limited to just upsurge the values of GDP rather an uplift of the society in terms of developed life standard is the real picture, one could depict. These projects will certainly support shrinking the unemployment rate, which currently persists at 5.9 percent. According to the international labor organization (ILO), CPEC is estimated to create 400,000 jobs in the country, while according to the estimates of Applied Economic Research Centre, the mega-initiative would provide around 700,000 direct jobs between 2015 and 2030. The Planning Commission’s data shows even more promising results, with CPEC generating around 800,000 jobs in the next 15 years. Centre of Excellence for CPEC has also conducted a study in which 1.2 million jobs have been projected within the period of 2013-2030.
It is evident from a bulk of studies that, the production units to maximize their profits follow certain policies to minimize their costs, especially associated with the inputs a firm requires. For this, one study found that Sahiwal Coal Power Plant, China Power Hub Generation Company, and other renowned energy projects are replacing their highly paid Chinese technicians with the relatively economical domestic skilled workforce. To make this possible, keeping in view the fact that the prevailing engineering graduate skill-set was insufficient to meet the requirements for technical personnel, Chinese administrators began by being focused on the employment of graduates from specific universities in Pakistan. The first batch of engineers was completely hired from Pakistan universities including the University of Engineering and Technology Lahore (UET) and the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) Islamabad in Sahiwal coal power plant. The graduates hired from UET numbered 80 to 90 out of 124 engineers, while the rest were from NUST. However, the next recruitment cycle in 2016 was derived from almost all accredited engineering institutes of Pakistan. The employees, soon after recruitment, were sent to China for 6 months of technical training and later sent to UET to complete a 12-module training program specifically designed for the operational phase of the Sahiwal plant.
In the early harvest projects, and employment nostalgia was observed through various sources that “Chinese would bring in their labor”, whereas, the ground reality reported in contrary to the proposed accusation. Field surveys in the early harvest projects including infrastructure construction of CPEC and related projects reported to generate almost 51,000 jobs from which 97% of the laborers were local, in contrast, to 3% of whom were categorized as Chinese laborers. On the other hand, field survey of energy projects, although reported more skilled Chinese laborers inducted in its construction phase, however, in the operational phase the proportion of figures drastically changed, employing a more domestic skilled workforce in these projects.
The projections of job creation under future CPEC projects are estimated after considering the SEZs already operating globally. Moreover, the Centre of Excellence for CPEC has collaborated with the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) to conduct a research study in which the future demand of the workforce on different trade levels will be identified. Furthermore, to streamline the data, a National Job Portal for CPEC is underway to be launched to register the Chinese companies so that the companies list down their future demand and thereby, provide enough space to the skill development institutions to train the available domestic youth for the mega projects coming ahead