A key economic engine

The youth bulge can contribute significantly to a nation’s development if they have access to education, skills and jobs

A key economic engine


n Pakistan, people between the ages of 10 and 14 make up approximately a third of the population. According to estimates, 35 percent of Pakistan’s population is under the age of 15. India, China, Indonesia, the United States and Pakistan are the top five countries having the largest cohorts of young people. Pakistan is one of the youngest nations in the world and the second youngest in South Asia, after Afghanistan, according to the National Human Development Report (2018). 64 percent of the overall population is under the age of 30, and 29 percent is between the ages of 15 and 29.

A high number of young people is thought to be a key economic engine for development and growth. The youth bulge, however, can only become a significant contributor to a nation’s development if the youth have access to opportunities, particularly to education, skills and jobs. Otherwise, this youth bulge can represent a significant challenge. Unemployment and lack of opportunity can fuel extremism, crime, suicide and other societal problems that are not only harmful to a nation’s growth but also have a negative impact on the society.

Unfortunately, the statistics in Pakistan do not paint a pretty picture. Pakistan is the fifth most populated country in the world, and the number of young people in the country is rapidly increasing. The population is anticipated to reach 403 million by 2050. Pakistan has the ninth-largest labour force in the world, according to the government’s annual plan for 2020–21, and it is continuously expanding. Moreover, 49.2 percent of the population are female. Compared to other nations in similar economic positions, Pakistan’s female labour force participation rate of 21 percent in 2020 is rather low. Pakistan has one of the lowest rates of female labour force participation in the world, coming in at number 144, according to the Vision 2025 document.

There is concern about the enormous number of young people who are not in employment, education or training. The phrase “neither in employment, education or training” (NEET) was developed to keep track of the statistics. The NEET rate is the proportion of the youth population that is not in education, employed or in training. In comparison to youth unemployment, it provides a more complete picture of prospective youth labour market participation because it covers young people who are not in education, employment or training. The rate of NEETs worldwide climbed from 21.7 percent in 2015 to 22.4 percent in 2020. In 2019, Pakistan’s NEET rate was 29.7 percent. This suggests that a lot of work needs to be done.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes the NEET rate as a progress indicator. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) place a strong emphasis on productivity increase and long-term economic growth. The most important elements for this are more job opportunities, support for entrepreneurs and a supportive environment for new businesses. The Sustainable Development Goal number eight emphasises the significance of ‘decent work’ for attaining economic development. It says, “promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all.” This goal aims to “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including young people and persons with disabilities and equal pay for work of equal value” by 2030.

Around 55.6 percent of all employed individuals in Pakistan are thought to be vulnerable and not having decent work – more than half of all jobs. The government must bring policies and reforms into effect, working with the private sector, to give young people opportunity and access to decent work/ job and self-employment. The most significant part is technical and vocational training. But there is a need to launch trainings that are in demand in the national and international markets. Pakistan has experienced a growth in the number of new companies that manufacture and assemble automobiles and mobile phones; this is a high-demand market that requires customised training for the youth. This will also help boost manufacturing employment.

The demand for masons, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and solar energy professionals has surged because of Pakistan’s rapid growth in the construction industry. It is important to design and provide specialised training for these occupations. Successful trainees can start their own businesses, resulting in an increase in self-employment. E-commerce and freelancing are also in high demand; the youth can receive specialised training, which boosts software exports.

Last but not the least, developing opportunities for young women and creating a gender-friendly environment in which they may work comfortably is critical. Through public-private partnerships, governments may give young women opportunities and enhance their capabilities. Organisations for national and international development might also take the lead and participate. This can help increase the rates of female labour force participation while also assisting women in having a respectable source of income.

Women are also involved in informal home-based work. They produce a vast range of products that have a high demand and are well known both in domestic and global markets. This includes embroidered apparel, stitching footballs, shoes, bangle-making and carpet weaving. It is estimated that around 8 million women in Pakistan are home based informal workers. These women, on the other hand, do not get a fair price for their abilities and work since they do not have direct access to the market. Furthermore, they are generally unrecognised and undocumented as contributors.

Efforts can be made to enable these women to use smart mobile phones to take orders directly and deliver items using courier services that can also be booked through smartphones. There is also a need to provide them with their own personal bank accounts so that they can receive the funds without the need for a middleman. This access to digital technologies and banking services will spark fresh life into rural women’s economic activity. Information technology and digitalisation are opening up lots of new opportunities for young women.

With the government’s help, Pakistan may see an increase in youth entrepreneurs, especially young women, and leaders in a variety of service industries. This will empower them, reduce poverty, and improve their lives and that of their families.

The author is a communications specialist and a freelance writer. He is based in Rawalpindi and can be reached at qureshiwaqas@gmail.com. He tweets @qureshiwaqasA

A key economic engine