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Pakistan set to lose its youth dividend amid economic meltdown

Pakistan's youth most impacted by economic and political crises (Photo: Twitter)

The economic and political uncertainty in Pakistan has affected its youth the most. Though about 60 per cent of the country’s population is aged between 15 and 30, there is little opportunity for them while unemployment rate in this age group is increasing. For any country’s economic and social development, providing right opportunities to its youth is critical.

A report by local newspaper the Nation said that a majority of the country’s youth are “squandering their time in futile debates focused on political rivalries, such as Imran Khan versus Nawaz Sharif or other political parties.” “This lack of diversification stifles creativity, innovation, and societal development, hindering Pakistan’s progress,” it further said.

Last year, the same news organisation noted that Pakistan had the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children with an estimated 22.8 million children between 5 to 16 years of age not attending school. This accounted for 44 per cent of the total population in this age group. “The situation is worse today as the economic challenges have steadily risen in the post Covid phase and there is little hope that it will improve anytime soon,” an analyst dealing with the Afghanistan-Pakistan region told India Narrative.

A study by Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) in 2022 revealed that more than 31 per cent of the youth was unemployed. The worst impacted are the women.

What is worrisome for Pakistan and even its neighbourhood including India is the fact that such a critical and unproductive situation can lead to pushing the youth towards non state activities.

Even as Pakistan’s hopes of reviving the financial assistance package from the International Monetary Fund have been rekindled, the country’s economic woes are not likely to end anytime soon. Pakistan has sought IMF’s assistance 23 times since the country was born. While the bailout money will help Pakistan avert a sovereign debt default, it will do little to boost its social and economic status until the country takes the necessary measures to put in place the much-needed reform measures.

The desperate situation has pushed many Pakistanis to relocate. In 2022, more than 800,000 citizens left the country. Data released by the Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment last month showed that more than 127,000 citizens have already left the country just in the first two months –January and February this year. The actual number is higher as the bureau does not track those who relocate for purposes other than employment. The urge to leave the country is significantly higher among the educated.

Also read: What’s in store for Pakistan as IMF talks go to the wire?