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1.6m idle youth created in Pakistan under COVID pandemic impact: WB report

Study finds that pre-school enrolment in Pakistan dropped by over 15 percentage points by end of 2021 in post-pandemic era

By Web Desk
February 18, 2023
Representational image of three youngsters wearing masks who pillion ride a motorcycle on a busy road in Pakistan. — AFP/File
Representational image of three youngsters wearing masks who pillion ride a motorcycle on a busy road in Pakistan. — AFP/File

The COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world some three years ago has left millions of youth idle, with up to 1.6 million in Pakistan alone, a latest World Bank report on the impact of COVID-19 on young people in South Asian stated.

The first comprehensive analysis of post-pandemic global data, "Collapse and Recovery: How Covid Eroded Human Capital and What to Do About It” released on Thursday. It cites a drastic change in the school enrolment percentages in Pakistan before and after the pandemic.

As per the report, pre-school enrolment in the country dropped by over 15 percentage points by the end of 2021.

"Enrolment among Pakistani children between the ages of six and 14 dropped by six percentage points once schools reopened, and 7.6 million children in Pakistan alone have dropped out of school," a World Bank press statement on the study read.

The study finds that in South Asia, today’s students could lose up to 14.4% of their future earnings due to COVID-19-induced education shocks.

In South Asia, between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2022, schools were fully or partially closed for 83% of the time, significantly longer than the global average of schools being closed for 52% of that same period.

For every 30 days of school closures, school-going children lost approximately 32 days of learning on average.

This is because school closures and ineffective remote learning measures caused students to miss out on learning and to also forget what they had already learned. As a result, learning poverty — already 60% before the pandemic — has increased further, with an estimated 78% of 10-year-olds in South Asia unable to read and understand a simple written text.

The press statement also quoted World Bank Vice President for South Asia Martin Raiser as saying: “The pandemic shut down schools, decimated jobs, and plunged vulnerable families into crisis, pushing millions of South Asia’s children and young people off-track and depriving them of opportunities to flourish."

While in the case of Pakistan, when the post and pre-pandemic learning levels were put in comparison, the children from the poorest households were falling further behind in math as compared to children from the wealthiest households.

The World Bank warned that COVID-19-like calamities result in a decline in both human capital levels and subsequent rates of accumulation. 

Moreover, lifetime earnings and economic growth will witness a decades-long downfall if the said losses are left unaddressed, ultimately causing a spike in inequality.