Pakistan’s Youth Bulge
An asset or liability?
There are many things we are not sure about in this world, but one thing is sure. Future of the world depends upon how the young people are treated, educated, trained and cared for. And it is the most important indicator of the future of Pakistan.
Youth is defined as between the age of 15 and 29. With almost 2/3rd of its population below the age of 30 and 1/3rd between the ages of 15 and 29, Pakistan is one of the youngest countries in the world. If we are able to harness youth’s energy, idealism, creativity, patriotism; if we plan thoroughly for their development, allocate adequate resources for this and implement it diligently, it can put Pakistan on the road to prosperity and peace. However, if the current situation is allowed to continue or worsen, we can be sure of social unrest, chaos, conflicts, broken social networks and increasing fault lines along religious, ethnic, sectarian, provincial, ethnic and gender divide. It is truly the biggest determinant of the future of the country.
Current situation is not just worrisome but alarming. Much of the following data and information is taken from the 2017 National Human Development Report which was focused on Youth. Global Youth Development Index, an initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat, is used to measure the state of youth development. It measures 18 indicators across 5 domains: education, health, employment, civic participation and political participation. Pakistan places at 154 out of the 183 countries currently being measured for youth development. According to a 2016 report, it is behind India and Bangladesh. The only country in the region worse than Pakistan is Afghanistan. However, the wrose news is that there has been a decline of 18 per cent between 2010 and 2015 in Pakistan whereas there has been no change in Afghanistan.
In spite of this urgent and important situation, Pakistan does not have a comprehensive youth policy. Youth have been used for political agendas and paid lip service to, but nothing substantial, tangible or sustainable has been done.
Some facts about youth:
The level of disparity among youth in different parts of the country is disquieting.
29 out of 100 are completely unlettered
6 out of 100 have completed education beyond 12 years
39 out of 100 (32 males and 7 females) are employed
57 out of 100 (16 males and 41 females) are neither working nor seeking employment
15 out of 100 have access to internet
94 out of 100 do not have access to library
93 out of 100 do not have access to sports facility
Only 23 out of 100 have own transportation
Pakistan has the highest youth unemployment rate in the region
In poverty stricken areas of the country these numbers are much worse.
At the root of these problems is wealth inequality in the country. Unless that is addressed, the impact of any measure to rectify this situation will be modest at best and probably unsustainable.
Guiding Principles of our program
“We believe in this simple unequivocal truth: the youth are a powerful source, possibly the most powerful force, for transformational change. With their demographic size and more importantly their fresh ideas and energy, if provided with a conducive environment, they can lead the way to sustainable human development.” NHDR 2017
We need a comprehensive youth plan.
- Any program focused on development of youth has to be dovetailed with broader poverty and income inequality reduction measures.
- Access to quality education has to be a priority.
- Employment is not just about earning a living but a source of increasing self worth, dignity and means of increasing social impact.
- Any youth program has to take various segments of youth into consideration and a concerted effort has to be made to reduce disparities between regions, genders and rural/urban areas.
- Inspire and prepare youth to become future leaders of the country
- A mechanism has to be set up to include their voices in the country’s decision making and create a space for their political participation.
To develop a comprehensive program for youth.
- Allocate funds for research and development for youth related programs. Accurate reliable data is the key to developing a practical and workable plan.
- Free quality education and skills training programs
- Free quality healthcare
- Focus on creating employment opportunities which meet aspirations of youth
- Allow and strengthen student unions
- Set up inter provincial exchange student programs
- Rehabilitation programs for youth in prison
- Improve sports, recreational and entertainment opportunities
- Ensure youth participation at various levels in the working of state and institutions.
- Increase women participation at every level in education and economic activity
- Access to knowledge through free internet