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A 71% drop in textile exports over the current fiscal year has led to thousands of layoffs within the industry, placing daily wagers and contractual employees at risk of starvation. This is just the beginning.

The auto sector is also in dire straits. More than 250,000 people have been laid off due to a drop in sales.

Mazhar Iqbal, 32, is currently unemployed for one month. “I was a contract employee at the quality inspection section of a textile unit in FB Area for six-years. After I went on sick leave, my employer requested that I not return to work as my “job no longer exists”. He told Dawn.

His sister, a UK doctor, provides the family with food and support. After more than six years working in the industry, he said it was difficult to change careers. However, he is not sure if other mills will hire.

In the first half of FY23, over 400,000 workers in the textile and auto industries lost their jobs. Stakeholders urge government to devise a strategy to prevent further retrenchments

“I tried hard to find the same job, but officials from other textile mills said that they could not hire because of a drop in export orders.

He shared his experiences of the difficult working conditions in the textile industry. He claimed that if a person does not mark their attendance for at least two consecutive days, the gate staff will take their employment card away and ban them from entering the premises.

Shahbaz Ahmed (name changed to protect his identity) is a machine operator employed as a daily bet. He had a similar story to tell. Nearly six months ago, he lost his job at a Korangi Creek auto parts unit. He was earning Rs20,000 per month and working a meager overtime. He has no other options after losing his job. “Two years ago, I tried my luck setting up a cabin with confectionery items at Korangi No.6, but was robbed twice,” Mr Ahmed revealed.

He claimed that he cared for a four year-old girl while three of his other children had already died.

Living in a house of 80 square yards in Korangi No. He said that he could not explain how he has survived this economic crisis, particularly after the huge jump in food and utility prices.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are claims of layoffs for at least seven million workers in the textile sector and value-added exporters.

Jawed Bilwani, Patron of Value-Added Textile Exporters, stated that the government’s indifference to the textile sector has worsened the sufferings for millions of workers.

The textile industry will have to close down its operations and fire at least 7 million workers if the situation does not improve. Approximately 80 to 90% of those employed in the sector are paid daily wages and contracts. He said that all these jobs depend on consistent export orders.

He spoke out about the lack of export orders. He said that rising gas prices, utility charges, non-availability, and a shortage in dollars all affected textile production in the country.

Bilwani stated that foreign buyers are more inclined to purchase low-priced products, which is why Pakistan lags behind its regional counterparts. Bilwani said that he wasn’t optimistic about future orders, because they weren’t up to his expectations.

An unknown textile exporter estimated that 150,000 and 200,000 people had lost their livelihoods during the current economic crisis.

Karmat Ali, Executive Director of Pakistan Institute of Labor Education and Research, stated that many people working in the sector are losing their jobs and urged government officials to create a strategy to combat rising unemployment. He said the country’s textile sector accounts for 60 percent of its job prospects. Karmat stated that most of those employed in the textile industry are not permanent workers, since most jobs have been outsourced.

Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts & Accessories Manufacturers Senior vice chairman Usman Aslam Malik stated that 250,000 and 300,000 employees have been fired due to a steady drop in vehicle sales.

Sohail Bashir Rana, Millat Tractors Limited Executive director, said that around 2,000 workers were affected by a decrease in tractor sales over the past six months. Mashood Ali Khan, an auto parts exporter, said that the rise in unemployment was due to economic uncertainty and declining vehicle sales. To manage the crisis-like situation, he said that overhead costs must be controlled and raw material prices must rise.

After reaching consensus with all stakeholders, including industrialists and political parties, the only way to save these industries and jobs is to establish the National Economic Development Plan. Ismail Suttur (ex-president of the Employers Federation of Pakistan) stated that the textile industry has seen a 50 percent drop in business since June 2013.

“This is only the beginning. “If this government continues to pursue its policies, I fear that the day when these retrenchments hit the services sector will be disastrous for the breadwinners in Pakistan,” Mr Suttur stated.

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