First published in Pak Tea House on 20 Jun 2015.
As per UNICEF’s 2013 Statistics, Pakistan is a country with one of the largest youth bulge in the world where almost 35 % of the population is under the age of 15 . This staggering amount of young people on one hand is a huge human resource full of potential waiting to be tapped and on the other hand, amidst rampant corruption, unemployment and terrorism, it can be a ticking bomb waiting to explode any time.
China and India –Two case of Population Utilization
By mid 20th century most of the developed countries have realized well in advance that rapid and uncontrolled growth of human population can add huge strain on the national resources. As time would elapse, this would directly translate into increased unemployment rate, poor health care facilities, declined literacy rate and lack of quality life for the citizens. Therefore, population control was the only solution to avoid such huge set of problems.
The steps taken and policies adopted to regulate population growth varied across different countries depending upon local intricacies. However for Pakistan, two examples, one successful and the other mildly successful can be found in its neighboring China and India respectively.
China is a case in point where communist government’s strictly implemented “one child policy” which paid huge dividends. It not only enabled China to control its population but with supportive economic, education and health policies it was able to utilize the population for the betterment of the country. As a result China today, despite being one of the most populated countries in the world, had made huge progress at an astonishing pace.
On the contrary, India with second largest population in the world is an example where, despite of various efforts to control population and harness the potential of masses, no significant gains had been made. As a result not only the population swelled in the absence of appropriate foresight and planning but also corruption, low literacy rate and fragile economy further increased the problems. Today, beyond the glitzy world of Indian media and Bollywood more than half of its population lives below the poverty line. In retrospect, Pakistan is neither a success story like China to benefit from its huge potential nor a failure like India. It lies somewhere in between.
Pakistan’s Election 2013 and the “Young” Factor
In Pakistan’s perspective, Election 2013 offers an interesting insight regarding the role of young population. An age-wise breakup of the 2012 electoral rolls shows there were about 16.2 million registered voters between the age of 18 and 25 years while 1.5 million were to turn 18 between January and June 2013.The percentage, however, is more significant when one considers that the total turnout in previous elections varied between 32 and 36 per cent. As a result political parties mainly targeted the youth using the social media. Public rallies were a reflection of this mindset of political parties. Millions of youngsters who were able to vote for the first time played a significant role in the overall results of the elections.
From the above analysis it is obvious that that Pakistan huge population bulge is ready to play its role in all spheres of life. However a comprehensive response to tap this potential demands a holistic response. Few key areas in this regard for effectively utilizing the young population are discussed here.
The first and the foremost area that needs attention is education. Empowering the young minds with well rounded, contemporary and balanced education along with the instruction of moral values and religious tolerance is the best investment possible in this era. Education of women also needs to be given equal focus and priority. Educated youth can be utilized in spreading knowledge at primary and secondary educational level by introducing a compulsory teaching tenure for university students in far flung areas of the country with poor literacy rate.
Sports and Athletics
Young people are more interested in games, sports, athletics and similar activities because they are spirited and full of energy. As there is a large chunk of young men and women in Pakistan’s population there is a need to develop infrastructure, organizations, communities, training facilities, grounds and courts to promote healthy competition and utilize their energies in constructive activities. A multi-pronged strategy should be adopted where at schools, colleges, universities sports facilities are provided and competitions are organized. In United Sates, colleges and universities provide youngsters sports facilities that enable them to indulge in positive competition; as a result individuals are healthy, tolerant, disciplined and productive citizens of the society. The focus should be on team sports like soccer, cricket, hockey and basketball rather than individual sports which require greater infrastructure and cost overheads. A culture of sporting events on weekends should be introduced; college and university should enforce participation in at least one sport as a degree pre requisite.
Humanities and Arts
These days interest in movies, games, television is common globally. Keeping in view the size of youth population in Pakistan there is a dire need to engage in humanities, arts and other similar creative activities. The opening of evening musical schools, acting schools, dance classes, theatrical performance trainees will provide young minds to spend their leisure time in more productively. An institutionalized approach should be adopted at community level; it is imperative in creating healthy environment for better development of youth.
Pakistan is engulfed countless problems in almost all the spheres of life. Motivated and enthusiastic workforce is needed that can help the state and its institutions in confronting these problems. Weekend based volunteer programs or extended duration volunteer work of up to three months in various field can help Pakistan and resolve various issues facing the country. Young Population can be directed to do volunteer work in public health organizations, old age homes, restoration of parks, maintenance of public places, teaching in rural areas and similar tasks can be identified to channelize this huge work force.
Empowerment and greater representation
In order to train and develop capable leadership it is necessary to prepare the youth who can uphold future responsibilities. This can be done through introducing model united nation in schools, colleges and universities. Youth parliaments at divisional and provincial level are also beneficial for creating young leaders.
Business Opportunities / Entrepreneurship
Young minds are full of new ideas. Keeping in view greater exposure of today’s generation due to electronic media and internet these young fertile minds are more capable of coming up with innovative ideas. However, proper guidance is required to channelize these ideas in the right direction. The development of organizations like small and medium enterprise development forums, involvement of various chamber of commerce as well as forming consortiums with the help of established businesses can prove helpful in this regard.
Young population needs to be utilized keeping in mind the national goals and policies of Pakistan. Human Resource Management needs be applied prudently. Misguided, direction less young population can worsen the situation and further deteriorate the problematic situation of the country. These young minds of Pakistan are a reservoir of energy, talent and capabilities; if regulated properly they can assist development of the country.