Ostensibly, there can be one of two main outcomes of a major youth bulge. Boom or bust. All of that depends on how the youths are managed, moulded and directed. In the case of Pakistan, there now appears some effort to ensure that this bulge does not implode. The government has decided to allocate a whopping Rs100 billion package to fund startups by the youth. Simultaneously, the government has announced 170,000 skills education scholarships for youngsters. A sizeable chunk of these skill scholarships, however, will be reserved for emerging ‘high-end’ skills such as artificial intelligence and big data.
One of the most consistent policies of the ruling PTI has been its laser focus on ensuring that our youths are moulded into a boom for the country, lest they become a bomb. The digital realm has been particularly targeted by the government as the sector to enhance since it is the only one that allows the quickest access to global capital or employment opportunities for citizens while staying in the country. Since coming into power nearly three years ago, the PTI has worked to extend resources, through provision of cash on easy terms along with skills training for the youth so that they can stand on their own feet. The climate of doing business has also been eased, especially in how freelancers can receive payments and access global e-commerce gateways. An entire university dedicated to skills development has also been set up. With nearly four million people entering the job market annually, this is realistically the most cost-effective and efficient option to create jobs for these people.
However, three years appear to be insufficient time to fully reap the fruits of this policy. There is little argument that the future is digital and entrepreneurship is what helped the US become the largest economy in the world. While the government’s efforts are steps in the right direction, they need to be backed by a larger, more comprehensive plan with performance-based checks and balances to ensure a fruitful strategy.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 31st, 2021.