As per an encyclopaedic National Human Development Report (NHDR) brought forth by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) back in May this year, Pakistan presently has the largest population of youth ever transcribed in its entire history of 70 years. It is the second youngest country in South Asia, only after Afghanistan.

In words barer, we are potentially the country that can provide the world with the workhorses to help transform the latter. The role that China played in the last generation could be ours in the next provided that we don’t let this unrivalled asset be brushed under the carpet.

Deplorably, very little is being done to ensure that this demographic dividend not be countenanced to become a demographic cataclysm. Dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, Dr Adil Anjam, is reported to have stated that out of 195 countries the planet earth is currently home to, only 14 spend lesser amount on education than Pakistan. This means that spending on education has never been on the list of priorities for the regimes Pakistan has been governed by. Defence continues to remain on top though.

The little education they are catered hardly ensues in being a contributory factor in this country’s outgrowth. We see many well-filled minds, but well-educated minds are in out-and-out scarcity.

With the increase in the youth bulge, the unemployment rate stands at a mere 5.90pc that has remained unaltered from what it was a year before – 2016. Nothing seems to have been done to ensure that this nonpareil gift isn’t laid to waste.

6000 youth traverse the age limit of 18 day-after-day. The question that needs to be addressed is: are 6000 new jobs also being produced? The answer, alas, would be a straight-from-the-shoulder “NO”. As a result, youth are falling prey to the bullet in the gun. Of all the conflicts that have taken place in the world since the 1970s, as per a study conducted by Population Action International, close to 80pc have befallen countries that are home to young men and women. Not only this, but “if a large cohort of young people cannot find employment and earn satisfactory income, the youth bulge will become a demographic bomb”. The reasons are unmistakable because “frustrated youth is likely to become a potential source of social and political instability”.

This increasing population of youth that most probably would have been considered as an instrument for prosperity in countries more developed is unfortunately being hailed as a potential disaster that can bring about crimes of all dreadful sorts.

Notwithstanding this rather bizarre situation, Pakistan’s population receives an annual increase of 2.4pc. Various factors – say, considering giving birth to children holy and that the higher the population of the “Ummah”, the more delighted will the Prophet (P.B.U.H) be – can be held accountable for this rather scurrying increase.

All verses of the Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet apropos this issue need to be revisited and interpreted according to what the needs of the present day and age are. With the PTI in power, prompt actions with regard to it are expected.

To help bring down the unemployment rate, planned development is the need of the hour. Universities, no matter of what type, should teach students ways of earning money whilst they study so that the dependency ratio may decline. Way outs need to be implanted. As per the famous economist Justin Yifu Lin’s words, “in a country with a youth bulge, as the young adults enter the working age, the country’s dependency ratio — that is, the ratio of the non-working age population to the working age population — will decline”. These words should be showed in Pakistan’s case.

Freelancing – selling services to different employers without a long-term contract with any of them – needs to be instructed as a compulsory subject so as to enable the students to be emperors of their own empires. Ways of engaging the youth in activities that can render them skills resulting in their becoming self-sufficing need to be chalked out.

To help make the youth bulge a demographic vantage, working age individuals should be given jobs which will also ensue in the level of average per capita income increasing.

Lastly, this grave issue needs to pay heed to, sooner than later.

 

The writer is doing his Master’s degree at the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar, and working as a Research Officer at Emerging Policymakers’ Institute (EPI) – an Islamabad based youth-led think tank.