This year’s national human development report turns the spotlight on at least one feature that the country can be truly proud of. Pakistan can boast of having the largest generation of youth in its history. After Afghanistan, Pakistan has the second youngest population in the South Asian region. The existence of a youth bulge, however, can do wonders only if this large segment of the population is allowed to harness their energy and unlock their creativity and powers of innovation to develop the economy. Unless that happens Pakistan’s fate will resemble many impoverished countries where similar bulges succeed only in outstripping the growth of the economy and straining the capacities of institutions charged with providing education and access to the job market as well as essential basic services.
Quite often however there is a wide gap between what the government expects young people to do and the kind of investment it puts on the table. Such disparity can lead to chronic failure.
The report claims that Pakistan has until 2050 to improve human development outcomes through a combination of empowerment strategies and innovative ways to surmount whatever challenges it faces. Education and employment remain the biggest challenges of the country. An overwhelming number of young people (77 per cent) drop out of educational institutions due to financial reasons. And when weighed up against the fact that almost four million youth aim to join the workforce every year, we begin to see how complicated the situation is. Over the next five years, Pakistan will have to create 4.5 million jobs just to absorb this segment of the youth population into the labour market. To achieve that we must make more young people employable. This can be done through a wider development of their skills and training and broadening the scope of their education. Such measures will not only help develop human capital but also drive up productivity levels in the country.
By creating a useful framework for promoting and ensuring access to education and mitigating unemployment, we could introduce a dynamic change in economic structure and that too permanently.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2018.