A band performs at the launch of UNDP’s National Human Development report at PNCA on Wednesday. — Online
A band performs at the launch of UNDP’s National Human Development report at PNCA on Wednesday. — Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan currently has the largest percentage of young people ever recorded in its history, according to the new National Human Development Report launched on Wednesday by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pakistan.

Titled Unleashing the Potential of a Young Pakistan, the report says 64pc of the total population is below the age of 30 while 29pc is between the ages of 15 and 29 years.

It is one of the youngest countries in the world and the second youngest in the South Asian region after Afghanistan.

This youth bulge will critically impact Pakistan as a country if not dealt with appropriately, depending on how the country invests in the youth by providing them with quality education, employment and meaningful engagement opportunities.

Says it will take 60 years to get all children into schools with current enrolment growth rate

The report says that if engaged and utilised properly, the youth can serve as catalysts for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It seeks to understand Pakistan’s human development challenges and opportunities from the viewpoint of the youth. It focuses on how to improve human development outcomes, by empowering the youth, addressing the root causes of the obstacles they face and by proposing innovative ways to overcome the challenges.

The report is authored by dean of the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University Dr Adil Najam and Dr Faisal Bari, associate professor of Economics at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Speaking at the launch, Dr Najam said that Human Development Index (HDI) at the sub-national level clearly depicts wide differences in the state of choices and opportunities available for people.

Islamabad has the highest HDI while the Federally Administered Tribal Areas bear the lowest. In the provinces, Punjab has the highest HDI while Balochistan has the lowest.

He said that only 14 out of 195 countries spend lesser than Pakistan on education and stressed on spending more on education as at the current net enrolment growth rate of 0.92 pc, it will take another 60 years to reach the target of zero out of school children.

“Young people between the ages of 15 and 29 make up 41.6pc of Pakistan’s total labour force and four million people reach the working age in the country every year.

“The report says that 90pc of the youth do not have access to recreational facilities, 15pc have access to the internet, 8pc to radio and 48pc own a mobile phone,” Dr Najam said.

Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal said it is essential to include young people at all levels of decision making.

UN Resident Coordinator Neil Buhne said: “Never have the opportunities for social, economic and political progress been so great. Nor have the challenges facing us been so pressing. Being aware of this opportunity, the UN, in line with the government’s Vision 2025, has prioritised working with the youth as a key pillar to our work across the board”.

If the youth are not handled properly and not provided with meaningful engagement in society, it will be a disaster for the country, said Japanese Ambassador Takashi Hurai.

Published in Dawn, May 3rd, 2018