Youth, Governance, Pakistan

Investing in the development of this burgeoning segment of Pakistan’s population will tap into enormous potential to achieve sustainable economic growth. Regrettably, the absence of concrete youth development policies, inadequate development apparatus and a lack of concrete initiatives geared towards development, training, and entrepreneurial programmes has reinforced a sense of general hopelessness and despondency among the youth about their economic future in Pakistan.

Youth unemployment is a national crisis. According to a survey, the proportion of Pakistani population that is considered the most ‘stressed out’ is its millennials; the segment of the population that falls between the age bracket of 18 and 33. For a country that is composed of more than 60 per cent young people and is considered the fifth youngest nation in the world, this is a very distressing scenario.

While the global trend has seen an upswing in the Youth Development Index, Pakistan has moved from the middle to low category in a span of only five years from 2010 to 2015.

The situation came to a boil recently when more than 896 PhD holders took on the streets, protesting for their right to employment and satisfactory living. This vacuum persists even though there is a requirement of about 36,000 PhD holders in universities and a further 60,000 PhD holders across Pakistan, according to a study by the PhD Doctors Association. The universities in Pakistan are evidently in dire need of qualified professors. Unfortunately, at present, a mere 700 PhD holders have been recruited by higher education institutions across the board. The dismal state of employment of the highly educated speaks volumes on the employment policy failures of governments, past and present.

The precarious future of Pakistan’s youth in light of the rising unemployment is reflected by Pakistan’s performance in the Youth Development Index (YDI). While the global trend has seen an upswing in the Youth Development Index, Pakistan has moved from the middle to low category in a span of only five years from 2010 to 2015. Moreover, according to the latest National Human Development Report, the country ranks 154 among 183 countries in the Global Youth Development Index and Report, 2017.

The young generation today is facing critical challenges resulting from government ignorance and institutional inefficiency. The increasing unemployment of the highly educated is indicative of mismatched skill supply and demand. Recruiters consistently complain about the lack of skills held by graduates. According to a 2016 report by the Institute for Statistics, UNESCO, around 25 per cent of youth in Pakistan are illiterate, and 8.2 per cent unemployed do not have technical or vocational skills. The situation will significantly worsen when the 69 million young people, falling under the 15 years age bracket will enter the labour force in the coming years. This will increase the widened gap between labour supply and demand, more specifically the labour skill supply and demand, pushing the country to greater potential productivity loss. Thus instead of greater youth population being utilised as an economic dividend, this youth bulge is a ticking bomb ready to detonate.

This ‘survival of the fittest’ culture created for the young populace thrusts them into unfair competition. The ‘fittest’ in society at an advantage because of their ‘suitable’ socio-economic backgrounds are able to benefit from learning and skill development opportunities.  Currently, the Net Attendance Ratio (NAR) for primary education is approximately 60 per cent and the completion rate is 52 per cent. The NAR for secondary level education is only 37 per cent. These figures are testament to the poor level of learning in public schools. These disparities, notably inclusive of low-quality education and lack of opportunities lead to high unemployment numbers among the less privileged by default. Set featured image

Currently, the Net Attendance Ratio (NAR) for primary education is approximately 60 per cent and the completion rate is 52 per cent.

Policymakers consistently push heterogeneous youth groups into the same category. The resultant homogenous policies created are ignorant of the needs of these diverse groups. Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) are the most marginalised segment of the population. Our educational and economic institutions categorically discriminate against PwDs through an absence of disability-inclusive education, infrastructure and opportunities. Our educational institutions do not make space for disabled teachers and staff. Out of 14 million PwDs, only 14 per cent hold employability status, according to a report by The World Health Organization (WHO). Even though there is a 2 per cent employment quota for PWDs in both private and public institutions, regulations are often not adhered to, and PwDs are blatantly side-lined in human resource strategies. In a country where public parks, transport facilities, offices etc. do not have disability friendly architectures, and where the general public’s attitude towards PwDs is that of pity and discomfort, it is not entirely shocking that PwDs get left behind in the race to attain economic prosperity.

A similar pattern is observed when the youth populace is reviewed through the gender lens. Youth policies are not inclusive of gender-specific reforms and restructuring. Similar to other segments within the youth, women or girls are not exclusively targeted by policymakers, leaving them to face the brunt of an absence of basic facilities and, resultantly, lower economic prospects.

Despite increasing dialogue on youth initiatives, the unsatisfactory impact of existing programs is indicative of the faulty policies that blindside the critical needs of a diverse youth population.

Pakistan’s youth is deserving of economic opportunities that lead to better lives. As discussed above, these embedded policy and strategy faults result in high incidence of youth unemployment. Despite increasing dialogue on youth initiatives, the unsatisfactory impact of existing programs is indicative of the faulty policies that blindside the critical needs of a diverse youth population. This younger generation can be game changers for Pakistan provided that youth policies are reformed and efficaciously implemented. The policies must move from a homogeneous to a heterogeneous approach with demographic-specific and need-specific restructuring that engages all relevant stakeholders and creates comprehensive, focused, and viable policies and programmes. An earnest effort focused on youth development, training, and enterprise is prerequisite for any economic progress that Pakistan wishes to achieve in its near and long term future.

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