Unemployment & Crime: The link within


Despite tall claims and press statements, the police lag far behind in its duty of protecting people and their properties. Dacoits, thieves and gangsters have bypassed all security measures in making the lives of citizens a living hell and the spell of street crimes is a continued obstacle in their daily lifes.
The reason behind the new wave of crimes is more economic than social. Groups of unemployed industrial workers, laid off by the textile sector on account of heavy load shedding of electricity and Sui gas have resorted to crime as an easy way to fetch a living. Faisalabad, which is also known as the Manchester of Pakistan due to its textile industry, is at the lowest ebb of economic activity due to declining business, rising cost of production, high fuel prices, shortage of raw material, high interest rates and growing competition in export leading to closure of factories.
Take, for instance, the volume of cargo movement at the Faisalabad Dry Port. The monthly average cargo handling that earlier ranged between 125-150 containers has now merely reduced to 15-20 containers. An 8-9 times decline in business activity has been witnessed, sending shock waves to port authorities which are struggling at the brink of a collapse. Many flagship industrial units have closed down and thousands of power loom factories have quitted the field after incurring heavy losses. Chief Police Officer (CPO) Faisalabad Rai Tahir Hussain in a recent statement has admitted that the groups of unemployed workers who lost their jobs are behind the recent surge in street crimes.
Faisalabad, with a population of more than six million, is home to more than one million industrial workers. There is a daily average of 25-30 crimes involving thefts, robberies, motorcycle snatching, car jacking and mobile and wallet snatching in the city. In addition to these figures, a great number of cases are unreported due to mistrust between the police and the public.
Does correlation exist?
It is a common observation in many countries that unemployment and crime rates are positively associated. A more contentious issue is that whether this association means that unemployment causes crime or crime causes unemployment or other factors cause both. Only the first of the three possibilities may imply that the effect of unemployment on crime deserves to be counted among the non-financial cost of unemployment that must be taken into account in a cost-benefit analysis of potential unemployment-reduction policies by a good government in place.
A social scientist Ehrlich in his research model in 1973 deduced that individuals divide their time between legal activities and risky illegal activities. If legal opportunities become scarce as compared to easy potential gains from crime, the model predicts that crime will become more frequent than usual. Increased unemployment in a society could thus, be the root cause of crime.
Magnitude of unemployment effects in any given society is quantitatively important. The question is whether higher incidence of unemployment leads to a greater incidence of crime. Social scientists may differ in opinions on the subject but one thing is for sure. In the contemporary society of Pakistan, rising tide of unemployment and lack of job opportunities has triggered crime figures to new heights of alarming social chaos.
Bread, cloth and shelter, but what about security?
The attention-grabbing slogan of “Bread, cloth and shelter” occupies an important place in the contemporary politics but incredibly the public is ready to barter their birth right of “Bread, cloth and shelter” for a guarantee of their life, property and honour. If we look at the current law and order situation around us, we will understand that people are justified to forego bread, cloth and shelter in exchange of a five letter world, ‘peace’ which in today’s social climate is like desiring for a moon. Former US President Bill Clinton once said, “I do not believe we can repair the basic fabric of society until people who are willing to work, have work. Work organises life. It gives structure and discipline to life”. Another quote displaying the miseries of an unemployed individual goes as follows, “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun.”
It is a general perception that the able, hardworking and willing workers are always considered as a valuable asset to a nation and the waste of huge manpower due to unemployment is not less than a crime for a society itself. It is literally genocide of the national budding talent pool. In Pakistan, every year a new battalion of six million job seekers enter the market that is unable to absorb the existing surplus workforce.
The economic link and the urgent need:
Unemployment has its baneful link with economic and anti-social crimes. Most economic studies have focused on one thing; unemployment has a direct link with crimes involving monetary gains. Potential offenders compare costs and benefits associated
with crime.
It proves beyond any reasonable doubt that for a society, the total cost of unemployment may be far higher than some studies predict. If you cannot provide employment to your citizens and they resort to street crimes for earning a living, you have to increase the number of jails in the country to accommodate these offenders, provide them free food and shelter, increase the police strength and so on. Moreover, we need an enhanced judiciary, a larger number of shelter homes for the survivor’s support system and more grants in terms of compensation to victims.
We have reached an unhealthy economic state of affairs in which society comprises of two classes, those who have more food than their appetite demands, and those who have a larger appetite than the available food. This is a dilemma but an even greater dilemma is that the government has no strategy or intentions to fight this menace. They have ignored that unemployment promotes poverty, which is the mother of all crimes.
We need to re-introduce labour intensive projects to assimilate our surplus manpower to ensure a crime free society that will enable our economy prosper through the fruit of their labour. Pakistan’s agriculture sector has a capacity to accommodate our unskilled and semi skilled workforce provided there is a national level policy to revamp the sector. In the meanwhile, it is relevant to quote All Pakistan Textile Manufacturers Association (APTMA) Chairman Gohar Ejaz who says that if the government ensures a priority based gas supply to the textile industry in the new fiscal year, we assure that 15 million jobs can be created in the said sector alone, in addition to hitting an export target of more than $14 billion.
We have to realise the bare fact that unemployment always promotes hunger and anxiety and it is rightly said that a hungry man is an angry man as it is evident from the low level of tolerance in our culture.


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