Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced that the provision of cash assistance to poor deserving families under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme will begin today.
Speaking in Islamabad with the media about the prevailing coronavirus situation on Wednesday evening, he gave the assurance that the distribution of funds will be totally merit-based, transparent and non-political.
Khan said that the process of awarding cash worth Rs144bn to 12mn deserving families will be completed within the next two-and-a-half weeks.
The prime minister also said that the Coronavirus Relief Tigers Force will continue to identify deserving poor people at the district and union council level, and these will be added in the list of deserving people.
He also cautioned that as many as one out of 100 persons in Pakistan might be infected by the coronavirus, which causes the Covid-19 respiratory disease.
Khan urged citizens to understand gravity of the coronavirus situation and demonstrate responsibility by adopting all necessary precautionary measures to contain the virus.
The prime minister urged the opposition leaders, parliamentarians and civil society to support government in its endeavours to steer Pakistan out of crisis.
Earlier, China announced financial, medical and technical support to Pakistan in the fight against the pandemic.
The support was announced by a delegation of Chinese business leaders who called on Prime Minister Khan in Islamabad.
They announced donation of Rs2mn to the prime minister’s Covid-19 relief fund.
They also donated medical supplies worth Rs5mn that includes 30,000 masks, 100 N-95 masks, and 300 personal protection suits to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
CMEC general manager Li Kan apprised the prime minister about the application of latest environment-friendly technology for enhancing cotton production in China.
Zonergy president Richard J Guo evinced interest regarding investment in the renewable energy sector of Pakistan, particularly in the manufacturing of solar panels.
Prime Minister Khan appreciated their interest in investing in Pakistan.
He also appreciated the generous gesture shown by the Chinese companies towards Pakistan’s fight against Covid-19.
Meanwhile, a report by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) has stated that out of the 8.51mn migrant workers in the country, some 3.78mn at risk of being laid off due to shutdowns necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“The closure of business activities would force the owners to lay off their employees, and some have already started doing that.
“We assume that informal workers, which comprise 45% of the total migrant labour force, will be the first ones to be laid off,” the PIDE has projected.
“This means around 3.78mn migrant workers will be left without their source of livelihood,” the report said.
The PIDE pointed out that Punjab employs 5.33mn migrant workers, out of which 2.37mn were facing the threat of losing their jobs.
Sindh, with a migrant workforce of 1.3mn, may see 580,000 laid off.
Out of the 1.38mn migrant labour workforce in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 610,000 might face retrenchment; in Baluchistan, out of 70,000 migrant labourers, 30,000 may be laid off; while in Islamabad, 190,000 migrant workers face the threat of losing their jobs.
With calls for social distancing and a nationwide lockdown, the coronavirus outbreak has shuttered business operations across the country.
As projected, millions of workers are facing layoffs, but the situation is much worse for workers who are away from homes to earn a livelihood.
“While we worry about remittances from overseas workers, migrant workers remain largely ignored in all our discussions,” the PIDE added.
According to official statistics, around 8.51mn migrant workers are working across Pakistan (based on the Labour Force Survey 2017-18).
The statistics show that 45% of these are engaged in informal activities, including day labourers, construction workers, domestic helpers or factory workers.
More than 65% of migrant workers are residing in only 15 districts across Pakistan, with more than 1mn workers just in Karachi, followed by sizable populations in Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Findings show that a majority of internal migrants are working in wholesale and retail, manufacturing, construction, transport and communication sectors.
Therefore employees in these sectors are expected to be hit the hardest.
Moreover, the report also shows the vulnerability of each sector and what effects a massive layoff of daily wage workers would cause.
Many of these daily wagers reside in factory dormitories, which, being shuttered for now, leaves them with no place to live.
With bus and train services also suspended, these workers are left with no place to go.
The PIDE states: “We must also remain aware that some of these internal migrants may return home as they do after festivals. With a prolonged lockdown, there could be a possibility of a return migration.”
Four recommendations have been put forward by the PIDE to the government.
These include social protection packages announced by the federal and provincial governments, which should include migrant workers while targeting vulnerable workers regardless of domicile.
Secondly, they suggest that there should be a provision to accommodate migrant workers in their current district of employment to reduce massive movement from the place of employment to hometowns, as has been witnessed in India.
“The current practice of the local administration requiring people to register in their hometown for getting unconditional cash transfers of Rs12,000 for registration under the Ehsaas programme should be reviewed.
“It will lead to unnecessary movement and run counter to the lockdown intentions for corona prevention,” it said.
Thirdly, migrant workers, mainly daily wage workers, need shelter during this period.
Panahgahs (shelters) should be opened for them as well, providing them with much-needed shelter and food.
Soap and other hand washing facilities should also be provided to reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.
Fourthly, in cases where the internal migrant has his/her family with them, and they want to remain in whatever place they have, they should be made part of any public relief initiative.
“A huge proportion of children, among the seasonal migrants that travel with families, are malnourished and any loss of wages further accentuates that. To save that from happening, rations need to reach them,” it added.
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