Unplanned urbanization changing demographic composition of Karachi


Karachi: Unplanned urbanization due to rapid influx of labour from different provinces and northern areas to Sindh province, particularly its industrial hub Karachi, is not only changing demographic composition of the city but creating immense new problems in social, economic and civic services sectors. This surplus supply of very cheap and unorganized labour is also making it hard to achieve the agenda of decent work.

Due to the growing joblessness a large number of families are migrating to Karachi in the search of green pastures. The ongoing militancy and repeated military operations in the northern areas of Pakistan have also resulted in exodus of people to Karachi and other cities of Sindh, not only burdening the already vulnerable civic infrastructure of these areas. The fast changing demography has also resulted in creation of new constituencies where these internal immigrants as voters would play a vital role in changing political scenario in near future.

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and the second largest country in South Asia. The urban population the country is expanding rapidly. It has already increased from 58.74 million in 2008 to 69.87 million in 2013. If the trend prevailed, the urban population of Pakistan will cross the figure of 122 million in 2030, which is 50 % of total population of the country.

National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) President Rafiq Baloch said unplanned international immigration of labour is a hindrance towards achieving the agenda of decent work. As the first priority of an immigrant labour is to get a job- any sort of job. They do not care about minimum wages, fixed working hours, social security, health and safety conditions and other labour rights. They are willing to work in sweat shops for 16 to 18 hours a day for a meagre wages even without any weekly holiday. He said it is psyche of immigrant workers to care least about the working conditions and labour rights.

He said to checked unplanned and mushroom urbanization, the government has to focus on migration process. The major contributor of urbanization is migration. Migration is the process of movement of people in search of social and economic opportunity. Increasing population, urbanization and migration mean high demand for jobs and employment. Big cities generate jobs and income. With good governance they can deliver education, health care and other services more efficiently than less densely settled areas simply because of their advantages of scale and proximity.

Baloch said Pakistan is amongst the largest producers of cotton, but the textile mills are concentrated in Karachi or Faisalabad. He said if the government plans setting up textile and garment units in the areas which produce bumper cotton crops, the local unemployed people can get jobs near homes. He said in similar way food processing and dairy and meat producing industries could be set up in rural areas, giving value addition to the agriculture produce and providing jobs for people. This would lessen the migration of workforce to big cities and result in a sustainable and widespread socioeconomic development of the whole country.

If Pakistan has to make the most of its labour force for both human resource and economic development, it must work towards achieving the Decent Work Agenda for its labour force including women. The decent work is the aspirations of all people for their working lives: for work that is productive, delivers a fair income with security and social protection, safeguards their basic rights and offers equality of opportunity and treatment, prospects for personal development, the chance for recognition and the chance to have their opinions heard. It is also an overall goal of the International Labour Organization (ILO) that there should a decent work for all women and men in all countries.

Rafiq Baloch stressed the need of training of workforce. He said for skilled and trained workers it is easier to be organized in trade unions. He said the trade unions of the county are trying their best to raise voice for the rights of labours, but other stakeholders including government and political parties have yet to play their due role in this regard. He said the labour sector in Karachi needs organization on modern lines and it would also help in rapid industrialization and boosting local and national economy. He said to rid Karachi from ethnic and sectarian tensions, industrialization process and organization of labours on trade union pattern would pay great dividends.

Secretary General of National Labour Federation Pakistan (NLFP) Rana Mehmood Ali Khan said the industrialists are exploiting economic vulnerability of poor internal migrant labours in all industrial centers of Sindh province including Karachi, Nooriabad, Kotri and Hyderabad. He said the workers should be given their rights irrespective of their gender, caste or creed or place of domicile. He said the first right of a worker is that he or she should be given a proper appointment letter at the time of their recruitment. They should also be issued a factory card with their photo pasted on it and the date of appointment also inscribed on it. He said worker should be given at least Rs10000 per month, the minimum wages of Sindh province. He said it is also a right of the worker that he or she should be registered with Sindh Employees Social Security Institution (SESSI),Employees Old-Age Benefits Institution (EOBI), and Workers Welfare Fund (WWF) so that he could avail the facilities of pension, medical treatment, education of children, grants for marriages of daughters and other benefits available under the law. He said his organization, NLFP, has been struggling for these rights of workers from the day one

He said the number one enemy of workers is ‘contract system of labour’. He said majority of workers in Sindh factories is working under the contract system, because the contract labours of cheap and they do no demand their legal rights as per labour laws. He said the unplanned urbanization has also increased the supply of contract labour. He said influx of cheap labour families in Karachi and the pattern of their permanent settlement in slum areas is affecting demographic composition which is the general hallmark of the industrial cities. He demanded all labours, irrespective of the fact that they are local or internal migrant, should be given their due rights and their brutal exploitation be ended.

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