LONDON: Pakistan is one of the worst countries for young people aged 15 to 29 to live in, according to the findings of a new youth development index compiled by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Pakistan ranks poorly at 154th in the index, below neighbouring countries like India (133), Bangladesh (146), Iran (94), Sri Lanka (31) and Nepal (77).
The youth development index comprised 18 indicators that collectively measure countries’ prospects for young people in employment, education, health, civic and political spheres.
The report exposes deficiencies in the existing stock of data and highlights the need for a better and more inclusive data.
Of the five domains of the index (i.e. Education, health, employment, civic and political participation), Pakistan trails behind the South Asian average in all except Health and well being. Pakistan’s low score in the YDI is explained by its significantly low scores in the areas of education, financial inclusion and political participation. Alarmingly for Pakistan’s policy makers, in the domain of education, all South Asian countries except Afghanistan have better scores than Pakistan.
To quote a specific example: Only 42% of children in Pakistan are enrolled in secondary schools whereas the South Asia and global score for the same indicator are 68% and 81% respectively.
Report shows that Pakistan, in comparison to its neighbours and other developing countries, also scores particularly low on financial inclusion. Only 6% youth in Pakistan have an account at a formal financial institution. The South Asian and global figures for the same indicator are 31% and 42% respectively.
“Young people make nearly one third of the total population of Pakistan. If we extend the age range to include children as well, then three out of every five people in Pakistan are below the age of 30, making it one of the most youthful countries in the world”, said Rafiullah Kakar, one of the lead researchers.
“Pakistan needs to invest in education and skills development of the youth cohort to reap the dividends of this demographic bulge and prevent it from becoming a time bomb. Especially, it is time for provincial governments to rise to the occasion and responsibly handle the powers devolved to them under the 18th amendment, including youth affairs”, said Rafiullah.
“Given the large youth bulge in Pakistan, this is high time for the government to invest in young people, build their capabilities and involve them in the decision-making processes. Otherwise, this demographic bulge could easily change into a time bomb.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said, “The index throws down a challenge to policy-makers everywhere, without action to promote young people’s empowerment, boosting opportunities for employment and opening up spaces for political dialogue, countries will be squandering their most precious resource and storing up problems for the future.”