Young people are the most important and dynamic segment of a country’s population and are worldwide known and recognized as catalysts or instruments for change.
The world population currently stands at 7.6 billion people as of August 2018 [according to the UN]. A fourth of this global population [around 1.8 billion] comprises young people aged between 10 and 24, with the developing counties having their largest concentrations.
Pakistan is one such developing country where out of a population of 200 million, 63% comprises youth of which 58.5 million are 20-to-24-year-old while 69 million are aged under 15. According to a study, the most “stressed out” population in Pakistan are its millennials — those falling between the ages of 18 and 33 years.
This huge youth bulge [resulting from high fertility and low mortality rates] packing vast reserves of energy could be either a demographic dividend or demographic bomb for this South Asian country reeling from decades of domestic mess and foreign economic dependence for survival since its birth.
If experience is any guide, then it won’t be unsafe to say that this youth bulge is more a flashing red flag or ticking time bomb for Pakistan than a dividend due to years of governmental failure to allow our young boys and girls to harness their abundant reserves of energy, unlock their creativity and unleash their power of innovation in the fields of their interest to transform this impoverished country from being a banana republic into a developed, self-dependent and prosperous nation.
The biggest factor contributing towards demoralizing our talented but neglected youths and stunting their ingenuity and creativity is the never-ending ban on government jobs, limited job opportunities in private sector and a lack of patronage and care by different governments.
Years of ban on jobs placed by different civil and military governments, limited job opportunities in private sector and unavailability of a level playing field, in both sectors, has forced our talented youths to either move to greener pastures abroad [allowing other nations to make the most of their talents] or indulge in social crimes like car-lifting, robbery, mugging, bank heist, terrorism to make [both] ends meet.
This ban only served to pave way for reemployment of retired people creating no space for the fresh, young blood and bodies to take their place. This hard-to-die culture makes our youths overage for any public or private sector job.
It is a pity that almost all governments justified this brain-drain, terming it a vehicle for sending remittances back home to shore up the county’s ever dwindling and wavering economy and shore up the foreign reserves.
Perturbed by joblessness and the deepening sense of being worthless, some of these youths fall into the trap of agents who smuggle them abroad through illegal channels. However, the end result is that such youths are either deported or their bodies are flown back home in caskets.
If they manage to fly back home in one piece and buy their way out of the FIA immigration hounds at the airports, they find themselves facing the lenders who daily beat their doors demanding money. Family taunts add to their desperation and despondency.
In such circumstances, such youths become soft targets for gangs of criminals and enemy forces who use them against their own country for terrorism. Increase in street crime in our country owes largely to such youth gangs.
Another discouraging and frustrating dimension of denial of space to our youths in the job market is that parents are finding it too hard to marry their daughters before it gets too late. In the current scenario, we see our girls advancing in age with no hope of being married to a good match at the right time.
Yet another discouraging dimension of this ugly picture is that 90pc of our youth have no access to recreational facilities, as our parks, playgrounds and empty spaces are fast losing the ground to increasing commercialization denying our youth an opportunity to let off steam and the pent-up anger/frustration. Lack of recreational opportunities is pushing our youth to other unhealthy activities.
The need of the hour is to create enough space in the job market for absorption of our talented, trained and skilful but neglected youths and ensure a level playing field for them by uprooting the deep-rooted culture of nepotism and jobbery and recontracting the dead wood again and again.
If we engage and utilize our youths properly, they can help the motherland in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other set objectives.
If we failed to empower tour youth, address the root causes of obstacles they have been facing and propose innovative ways to overcome the challenges then this ticking time bomb might go off soon to the detriment of the country.
Putting its best foot forward, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society – the leading humanitarian organization in the country – arranges different programs off and on to engage and train youth in different disciplines and absorb them where possible.
Volunteers are the backbone of the Red Cross Red Crescent (RCRC) Movement. The involvement of youths and volunteers plays a vital role in carrying out the PRCS activities and maintaining strong links and regular interaction with the communities
The PRCS has established youth clubs in different institutions where they conduct youth related programs such as Youth as an Agent of Behaviour Change (YABC), youth development trainings, promoting culture of healthy and safe living in the community by participating in cleanliness drives to reduce spread of disease, “Go Green” tree plantation drive for safe and healthy environment, awareness campaigns in collaboration with traffic police to promote road safety.
The youth and volunteer department also trains volunteers for National Disaster Response Teams (NDRTs), Emergency Response Teams (ERTs), Branch Disaster Response Teams (BDRTs) & District Disaster Response Teams (DDRTs) in all districts to strengthen the disaster response capacities. Currently, the PRCS has a base of 1.8 million volunteers countrywide and aims to take this volunteer base to 5 million.
Today, a number of young boys and girls who joined the organization as volunteer are now serving it as full-time employees by dint of their hard work, professionalism, dedication and commitment to the tasks that had been assigned to them from time to time.
The organization also serves as a platform to polish the skills of hardworking, energetic and dedicated young blood by providing them opportunities of international trainings.
The Youth & Volunteer Department, First Aid Training (FAT) program and the National Ambulance Service College, affiliated with the National Ambulance Service College of Dublin, Ireland are at the forefront of this relentless campaign to make our youths a useful part of our society though at a diminished, diminutive level.
The government must strengthen institution such as PRCS that is providing the right channel to dedicated, motivated and devoted youth of the country that is ready to make a difference in the lives of many and are striving hard to improve the lives of the those who need the most .
The writer is Principal Information Officer, PRCS, Islamabad.