KARACHI: Pakistan’s new government, headed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), faces uncountable problems such as poverty, electricity crisis, law and order situation, economic crisis and a lot more.
These challenges will not only reveal the reality of the government’s claims but will also test its mettle and capacity. One of these problems is the utilisation of young minds in the interest of Pakistan.
According to a recent report, 64% of the population in Pakistan is below the age of 30. Furthermore, 29% of the total population comprises people aged between 15 and 29 years. This, in its literal sense, is quite a healthy sign. However, if not utilised, the same young minds can create serious problems for any country. Today, Pakistan faces uncountable issues such as economic crisis, terrorism, target killings, street crimes, etc. These issues have their root cause in the non-utilisation of youth.
There are some alarming elements, which demand serious consideration. First, the recent census has revealed that the percentage of youth in Pakistan is on the rise at a seemingly fast pace. Second, Pakistan has witnessed hugely disturbing events in which young people are involved in deadly violence. Third, the global economy is ever more demanding and less forgiving of individual shortcomings.
The World Bank report states that in 2039 the population of youth in Pakistan will reach its peak with an average annual growth of 9% from 2025 to 2035. Therefore, it is critically important to provide young minds with opportunities of academic education, vocational training, employment and entrepreneurship, so that they can contribute to the socio-economic progress of Pakistan.
Nation-building is referred to as the process of getting all citizens involved in the socio-economic prosperity of a country. However, it is the youth that is considered nation-builders in the truest sense. Youth of any country is not only participant of today but is also the leader of tomorrow. Young minds have passion, energy and acceptance of innovative ideas, dreams and hope.
The first and foremost method of utilising the youth is to get them education that is not only updated as per the needs of current times but is also of high quality.
However, very few get quality education in our country. A major percentage of the youth does not even get educated at all and the other, if even they get schooling, is denied meaningful education. The inevitable consequence of the lack of access to quality education is the absence of employment opportunities. The growing number of young people demands Pakistan to generate nearly two million jobs per year for two decades.
However, not being able to fulfill job-related requirements, a large portion of Pakistani youth has turned towards illegal means for meeting their financial needs. Hence, mischievous activities including street crimes, deceiving, cheating are on the rise.
Skills development programmes
The Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme (BBSYDP) is one such programme that focuses on developing human resource in Sindh by empowering the youth (aged between 18 and 35 years) with employable skillsets. It was initiated in 2008-09 by the Government of Sindh. The condition of Sindh, where young population is estimated at 55.7%, is not different from the rest of the country. A large proportion of the young population in the province is unable to get itself employed just because they do not have necessary skills to compete in the job market.
BBSYDP is a skills development programme to produce skillful youth and promote employment generation. The Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Human Resource Research and Development Board (BBSHRRDB) has been successful in creating impact through grooming 292,000 youth in 89 employment sectors.
The yearly budget of BBSYDP is around Rs1 billion. Last year, the programme trained approximately 27,500 students across Sindh.
The Prime Minister’s Youth Skills Development Programme (PMYSDP) is another project aimed at training the young population, aged up to 35 years, with middle-level education, for acquiring necessary skills for availing employment opportunities. The programme is carried out across the country and is executed by the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) and the Ministry of Education and Training, in collaboration with provincial Technical Education and Vocational Training Authorities (TEVTAs) and other government/private sector skills training institutes.
According to the data acquired through NAVTTC, for the last three years the programme has incurred around Rs12 billion on training and 200,000 unemployed young people across the country. The outcome of this programme seems quite satisfying as approximately 60-70% trainees get employed or start their own businesses after the completion of programme.
Furthermore, the drop-out ratio is also meagre 5%. Each PMYSDP is extended up to six months and includes one month of job training.
Laptop scheme, fee reimbursement scheme, youth training scheme, youth skill development programme, interest-free loan scheme and youth business loan scheme are other schemes carried out across the country, focusing on the development of young population.
Pakistan’s freelancing industry has thrived with a great pace. According to the Online Labour Index 2017 of Oxford Internet Institute, we are ranked fourth in the list of most popular country for freelancing. The tremendous growth of IT industry has made us the top destination for ICT outsourcing.
Standing at the fourth position across the globe for software development and technology is another important point to be noted. All these statistics are not only considered a good omen for the prosperity of Pakistan but also call for a robust strategy towards utilising the youth to expand the benefits generated.
Currently, we generate revenue of $0.5 billion from the freelancing industry. If we are able to produce one million freelancers in the next five years, they can add $1.9 billion to the economy. It should be noted that this calculation is based on the least number of hourly wage that is $1 per hour.
Statistics reveal that Pakistani freelancers are earning hourly wages starting from $5 to a maximum of $250. A committee should be formed, comprising the prime minister as its head and all provincial education ministers as members. The committee can take help from experts in identifying trades. Higher education institutes can be involved in the project since they have infrastructure, qualified faculty, lab, library, etc. It is also important to discourage small institutes since they are not able to deliver quality education. This initiative can help our youth to get good skilled jobs outside Pakistan as well. Recently, Qatar has announced 100,000 jobs and our youth can target the same.
Introduction of skills development programmes like PMYSDP and BBSYDP are a highly commendable step. However, there are a few steps, if taken, can prove helpful in producing desired outcomes. Besides updating, there is also a need to bring uniformity in the curriculum of same skills development programme being taught by different educational institutions. For that purpose, an academic board should be constituted and given the referred task.
Upgrade of lab facilities of public and private institutes as per international standards are also required. It is also important to introduce courses to train instructors as per demand of the industry. Technical and vocational education and training sector should also be promoted.
Furthermore, there is a need for all industrial sectors to get engaged in hiring skilled workforce (for instance, in the hospitality sector of Pakistan, even in five-star hotels 50% staff is uncertified). The government should implement the Apprenticeship Act of 2017 in letter and spirit, which will surely increase job opportunities.
The writer is the ICT director and the founding director of the Centre for Information and Communication at IBA
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2018.