Youth bulge: a ticking time bomb?

Usually a young and dynamic workforce is a good thing; but for Pakistan it could mean a time bomb waiting to go off.

Abdul Basit May 28, 2013
Over six decades of a perennially faltering economy? There has got to be something that Pakistan is doing wrong. I have found my country in an economic morass for as long as I can remember. While this issue invariably makes the headlines, it has assumed an unprecedented significance following a Unicef report that cites Pakistan’s youth bulge as one of the largest in the world.

According to the report, more than a third of the country is aged under-15 and the number of people in the 15-49 age bracket will double by the year 2050. Though many countries might view this quite favourably, as a young and dynamic workforce is mostly a precursor to many things good, but for Pakistan, if not managed wisely, this could well turn into a time bomb waiting to go off.

With clouds hanging over the economy’s ability to absorb the youth into the workforce, the policymakers need to come up with a quick but a sustainable fix before the situation metamorphoses into something beyond repair.

The unemployment rate has already skyrocketed to around 6%. It has become increasingly common for overqualified candidates to settle for half-decent jobs. The receding opportunities, together with government inaction, are contributing to the ever-increasing idle youth pool which could serve as a perfect recruitment ground for militant outfits.

With terrorism hanging over our heads as the proverbial sword of Damocles, it is important we give up our habit of quick fixes and address the inherent structural flaws in our economy because the implications of a stagnant economy on the social fabric of Pakistan will be disastrous.

The EU, plagued by jobless youth, is contemplating a billion-euro scheme under which, they would be able to receive ongoing training, a work placement or an apprenticeship that would help build up their skills so that they remain employable in the future. While Pakistan may lack the financial muscle to put in place such a plan, it is, however, clear that it needs to introduce something along similar lines to reap the dividends from this youth bulge, if and when, the economy kickstarts.

Abdul Basit
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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