The proposed changes to employment exchange laws are an embarrassing declaration of surrender
The 1971 surrender by General AA Niazi of Bangladesh with 93,000 soldiers to Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora has been a perennial source of national shame in Pakistan. But the merciless gaze of history has been kinder to General Niazi’s legacy; he was cut off from his army, his army was poorly rationed, he faced a hostile local population, and he presided over East Pakistan for only two days. In other words, he faced an impossible situation. But history will not be kind to the authors of the draft of the Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Amendment Bill, 2012, that is being introduced in Parliament. This current draft amendment should be withdrawn because fixing employment exchanges is neither impossible nor unaffordable. But the proposed amendment is an embarrassing declaration of surrender because it not only lacks ambition and imagination but it diagnoses the wrong problem and prescribes the wrong medicine.
The Press note after the Cabinet decision to approve the amendment says: “The Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959 was enacted in the year 1959 and with the passage of time some of its provisions have become obsolete and require modifications. With this in mind, the Act is being amended. Employment Exchanges will be renames as ‘Employment Guidance and Promotion Centres’ as the focus is now on vocational guidance and career counseling besides registration, submission and placement, etc. Establishments in the private sector employing between 10-24 persons are being brought under the purview of the Act for the purpose of submission of returns. This is likely to result in a more realistic estimate of employment in the organised sector. The employer is being mandated to furnish information related to the result of the selection against the vacancies notified within 30 dates from the date of selection, to make the registration data more rational. The definition of employee and employer are being broad-based to include contract labour that has worked for more than 240 days in a year.”
The proposed amendments focus on compulsory notification, redefining employers and submission of returns. These are all useful. But more than inefficient, employment exchanges are ineffective. Some amendments may be superfluous; Section 2 (e) of the Act may already include the private and public sector. The decision to expand to smaller employers is welcome but smaller employers are more difficult to