Sep 7: We are a country with one of the largest young populations – around 59 million youth – and a high birth rate of 1.43%. The resources are fast depleting with this fast-growing population and jobless youth. High population growth rate, the frustration amongst youth is phenomenal and directly related, causing scarcity of water and food, and malnutrition, while extensive unemployment of the youth leads to ‘have-nots’ syndrome, increased crime rate and ultimately terrorism.
Our birth rate is 21.9 per 1,000 women, while India’s is 19 and Bangladesh’s 18.8. We have one of the highest population growth rates, which is 1.43% as compared to our neighbours – India 1.17% and Bangladesh 1.04%. In literacy, we rank the lowest at 146. It seems our neigbouring countries, with same demographics and issues, have managed to curtail their birth rate and improve literacy, signifying the fact that there is something wrong being done by us.
The population time bomb is staring in our face as our resources will not and already do not match the requirements of the growing population. Malnutrition was highlighted by the prime minister in his maiden speech. But the core reason to be addressed is lack of food, water and health resources to meet the needs of a fast-growing population.
Immediate measures that can be taken by the PTI government include incentives like fiscal and tax benefits for smaller families and awareness through massive publicity campaign. Long-term measures are to improve the literacy rate and an inclusion of females in direct workforce, as that would allow them more control of decision pertaining to their fertility.
On the other hand, our unemployment rate is 6%. In that case, where will the ‘10 million’ jobs the government has promised come from when there is no direct investment in the country and entrepreneurs are not keen to invest given the time-consuming legal system, and inefficiency of doing business in Pakistan. Setting up a factory alone requires minimum 21 approvals from 21 various departments. Also the witch-hunting for getting corrupt persons has caused legitimate businesses to suffer. While we must go after uprooting corruption, all businesses are not corrupt and such actions are actually discouraging legitimate entrepreneurs. As a result, overseas or local investors are at present not keen to invest in Pakistan. International contracts have also been challenged and terminated, even the ones with sovereign guarantees, and investors do not consider this a legally safe environment for their investments.
Moreover, with respect to ease of Doing Business Index, Pakistan has a low ranking of 147 (out of 190 countries), which is a non-starter for any investor and if this carries on not even a million jobs can be created. CPEC too has failed to create many jobs as Chinese companies prefer to employ their own people.
However, if immediate reforms such as 1) boosting investor confidence in Pakistan by solid reforms like one-window facilities for managing companies, factories and industrial undertakings; 2) Honouring contracts done by Pakistan governments in the past; 3) Stopping harassment of entrepreneurs; and 4) Massive campaign to guide or mentor the youth into taking educational or vocational courses in sectors where jobs are available, could help achieve the target.
In many countries, studies are annually conducted and lists are compiled, based on industrial trends for availability of jobs, suggesting as to what set of skills and education is required for job seekers. Such priority lists should be published and a special employment cell should be set up in each province to advise job seekers. This will guide the youth to choose their degrees, courses and vocational qualification.
These are short-term immediate solutions which can in the next two years resolve some of the issues. However, a serious long-term policy pertaining to family planning and youth mentorship needs to be developed. The government should consider setting up separate ministries for family planning and youth affairs, which should formulate and implement both short- and long-term goals.