Focus on youth development

SINCE the era of former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, we have been hearing the country’s huge bulge of young population as the demographic dividend but what has been done for their development has been truly pictured in the new youth development index compiled by Commonwealth secretariat which declares Pakistan as one of the worst countries for young people aged 15 to 29 to live in. The index measures countries’ prospects for young people in employment, education, health, civic and political spheres and Pakistan trails behind the South Asian average in all except health.
Alarmingly in the domain of education, all South Asian countries except Afghanistan have better scores than Pakistan. How far do we lack in the education sector could be measured from the figures that about 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. At this point in time when Pakistan is already faced with challenge of extremism, we need to invest massively in education and skills development of our youth to really reap the dividends of this demographic bulge and prevent it from becoming a time bomb. Especially it is time for the provincial governments to rise to the occasion and responsibly handle the powers devolved to them under the 18th amendment including education and youth affairs. Though the federal government has launched a number of schemes for the youth under the umbrella of PM Youth Programme but due to certain limitations and strict criterion, the schemes have failed to produce any significant results. So there is a need to review and simplify whole procedures of the programme especially relating to the youth loan scheme so that maximum people could benefit from it. This would also ensure their greater financial inclusion which according to the commonwealth index is also far below than other countries in the region.

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