With the polls almost upon us, several questions have emerged:
Is this really a youth election?
Who is the average Pakistani who will decide the fate of the elections?
Here, The Express Tribune brings to you a visualisation of a report launched by the British Council Pakistan today. This research, called The Next Generation Goes to the Ballot Box, focuses on the youth participating (or not) in the upcoming polls. The first report was published in 2009. As Pakistan stands at the brink of transformative change, one thing is clear: the voices of this generation can no longer be discounted. This is a generation that has been scarred by terrorism, inflation and instability, and yet its members still plan to vote.
A conservative generation
2007: 50% of the youth thought the country was heading in the wrong direction
2013: 94% of the youth thought the country was heading in the wrong direction
Today, 64% of the male youth describe themselves as conservative/religious, whereas 75% of women feel the same.
Some key points:
• 1/4 of urban young people have an interest in politics.
• 3/4 of the youth who expressed an opinion in our survey worry about exposure to foreign media, films, music and ideas.
• Youth with access to cable TV were less conservative than those who only had access to terrestrial (conversely, terrestrial watchers were more optimistic than cable viewers). Owners of mobile phones are more likely to want to vote, more interested in politics and more likely to believe they can change Pakistan.
Economic woes, population growth
It’s the economy
In the last report the youth mentioned the greatest source of anxiety for them was not terrorism, but insecurity with regards to jobs, exams and justice. Now their greatest worry is not terrorism again, but rather rising prices, inflation.
Only 10% of the youth feel the country has enough jobs to go around (of the women only 5% feel the same).
Overall just 1 in 10 have full time contracted jobs
86% of women describe themselves as homemakers
Growing without a safety net
Since 1947 Pakistan’s population has grown by five times (from 35 million) and by 2060 Pakistan’s population will be 285 million (61% growth). Today only 8 million people are over the age of 65 by 2060 that figure will be 40 million and start rising steeply then on. By the time a baby born today grows old, Pakistani’s aged 65 and above will outnumber those under 18. Pakistan could thus become the first country to grow old before it becomes rich.
Some key figures:
• Currently two-thirds of Pakistani children fail to get enough food to grow normally, with one in five being severely stunted.
• Of the middle class youth 57% worry about their access to consumer goods, 76% to fuels for cars and motorcycles.
When asked about the best political system for Pakistan:
29% believe in democracy as a system
32% believe in military rule.
38% believe in Islamic Shariah
Approval of Institutions & Democracy
When asked about the approval of Pakistan’s most powerful institutions, the opinion of political institutions was highly unfavourable
The generation today
A pessimistic generation
In the last Pakistan: The Next Generation Report, pessimism was a worrying trend. The findings this time around are
An altered voter base
In Pakistani families across the board, the most educated are those below the age of 30, giving a unique opportunity for parties to address them who may look beyond traditional voting parameters.
• 13 million new first time voters from the survey.
• 25 million registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 years of age.
• Only 40% are certain to vote, whereas 21% are undecided.
A generation marked by violence
When the youth were asked about the most important events in their lifetimes, they didn’t point towards a positive event or collective achievement. Rather, it was the earthquake, the floods and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. A quarter of all young people have been directly affected by violence, or witnessed a serious violent event.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2013.