While Marxism may not be the ‘way’ for the day, it is an ideal framework for understanding the inherent dynamics under capitalism for those who are increasingly reminded of their importance as mere ‘cogs’ (unless one wishes to change the first alphabet). In simple words, it tells you that labour pay is not determined by the value of their production. Instead, compensation imparted is a direct function of labour and their offspring’s sustenance needs. And, from there emerges the concept of low wage traps, which leads generations into cycles of low productivity and most importantly great discontentment.
Before transposing this discussion onto the current remuneration dynamics, it is important to highlight that in the development discourse, the predicaments associated with unemployment and underdevelopment of skill renders the limelight miles away from the malaise that affects youth from the middle class. These are families who have spent fortunes on acquiring private higher education only to find out that there are very few willing to provide monetary compensation for skill, education and creativity. While there would be many who would beg to differ, most will also agree that the degree of professionalism and employee worth differs across cities. Thus, fresh graduates finding themselves in a city that lacks a thriving job market would speak of woes involving lower pays, exploitation and generally lower hope regarding how the future intends to reveal its colours.
Aside from the city factor, in the recent economic downturn, rent seeking does not seem to be characteristic of politicians only. While owners and top management are finding it extremely hard to part with the smallest of earnings percentage, the toll of lower demand and increasing infrastructure costs seems to have unfairly fallen upon the salaried class, deprived of much deserved raises bonuses, etc. How, may one ask, can a person focus on being productive when s/he is unable to make ends meet? The answer as a corollary would clearly explain why it is in the interests of the top to ‘slave drive’ and for those at the bottom to offer brandishing smiles with subservience and servility. And might one belong to the clan that states how it feels, then nay, the world of the corporate aint for thee!
As a result, unofficial statistics reveal that more than seven million Pakistani’s live abroad and thousands wait for the Almighty that resides in developed nations to beckon them somehow. Given this entire lament, it is interesting and very ironic to state that the number of people migrating into Pakistan versus those who leave is much higher and has been growing over the years; the net migration rate stood at negative 0.9 per 1000 population in 2000 and has grown to negative 2.17 in 2011. Clearly, those who see a future in this godforsaken country do not need to be pointed out; they’re everywhere!
Needless to say, in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, self-actualisation just may be a distant proposition for the population at large. One day when studies will reveal that investment is also a function of creative thought and processes, aside from other well known factors, they will connect the struggle and stress related to survival with a loss of creativity and faith. If philosophy were a core subject being taught, many would understand why thinkers are placed at such a high pedestal, to the extent, that marriages between the highest rung and the lowest, ie the bourgeoisie are frowned upon. And if history were being rampantly taught in the way that it should be, many would know that it was the practice of the Church to gobble the biggest scoop of the pie and ask the pie maker to believe in the hereafter. Have we, quite literally, glided back?
The writer is an economic researcher and freelance finance journalist. She can be reached at [email protected]