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Oversaturation a bitter pill to swallow for chemists

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Jun 13,2019 - Last updated at Jun 13,2019

AMMAN — Pharmacists and students who are about to don the white coat are facing an uphill battle to land a proper job, Jordan Pharmacists Association (JPhA) President Zeid Kilani said on Wednesday.

“Some may argue that there are pharmacies opening all the time, which might indicate the sector is doing fine; however, there are currently 22,000 pharmacists, other than the 30,000 currently studying the field at universities and colleges, all of whom need work,” Kilani said during a phone interview.

He noted that many of this number will not be able to find a job, and could end up opening their own pharmacies, which does not change the actual status or performance of the pharmaceutical sector. This usually comes as a “shock” to those who are new to the field.

“These large numbers have made the supply of human resources a lot higher than the needed demand, resulting in many workplaces violating the minimum wage [law], which means many pharmacists who have found jobs could end up being underpaid,” the association president said.

One of the JPhA’s suggested solutions to reducing both the exaggerated number of pharmacists and new graduates is by limiting the latter’s numbers.

“The graduates will most probably be unable to find a job and will not benefit from opening another pharmacy,” Kilani said, noting that this decision should be taken and made effective immediately, in light of the large number of students “who think the sector is fertile but learn very soon how it is competitive”.

In order for the field to continue generating revenue for universities and to sustain the economy, universities and colleges could increase the number of foreign students admitted into the major and decrease the number of Jordanians, he said, noting that a study should be initiated to analyse the market’s needs and the number of students.

In this way, the country would still bring in money from foreign students and help professors keep their jobs, but would not need to worry about having an increasing number of unemployed local pharmacists, especially since foreign graduates are bound to use their degree to work in their own country or other countries, Kilani said.

When asked how the JPhA is currently dealing with the numbers, the president said they are trying to sign contracts with different countries to help pharmacists find jobs.

For example, the association signed a contract with Qatar and was able to employ around 75 pharmacists there, and signed another with the UAE to send 65 pharmacists, Kilani said, pointing out that these numbers are tremendously small.

The JPhA is also trying to have hospitals commit to employing pharmacists, especially those with the job title “doctor of pharmacy”, he said, in addition to trying to increase the number of pharmacists working in factories.

Moreover, the association is attempting to get the Health Ministry to employ more pharmacists at its departments, hospitals and healthcare centres, which currently only have 712 pharmacists employed, covering no more than half its actual need, which necessitates the number of pharmacists working in the public sector to be increased, Kilani noted.

All these solutions are meant to help current pharmacists, Kilani said, adding that so far, “there are no fundamental solutions whatsoever to deal with the number of graduates that will flood the market soon”.

The numbers are much higher than the market requires, and a recent study showed that the unemployment rate stands at 26 per cent among the last 10,000 graduates alone; a rate that is still on the rise, he added.

The only measures that can be taken at the moment are to stop admitting new students into the major and to create a plan to rectify the situation for the next five to 10 years, he suggested.

“This has happened before, in countries like the UK and Australia, where they studied and analysed the number of new students, current students, graduates and the market needs, so they know whether to increase the number if there is demand or reduce it or stop teaching completely if there is excess,” he said.

In conclusion, Kilani said, Jordanian pharmacology students may be a university’s source of income for five years but “they will become a burden on the country and society if they are unable to find a job for the rest of their lives”.

On Tuesday, The Jordan Times interviewed Kilani about the performance of the sector, the issues it is facing and the solutions to help it recover, in light of the closure of 670 pharmacies over the past few years because of their financial losses and bankruptcy.

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