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Pakistan has a population of 220 million and is woefully behind on almost all development indicators. Our population comprises 65% of youth with limited opportunities to achieve their full potential. Ideally, we should have used the demographic power to our advantage, but lack of investment in education and the inability of the state to produce economic opportunities through the development of the manufacturing sector, the youth bulge has become a liability, which can be a serious threat to the country’s security. Unfortunately, we are not only failing our youth but destroying our youth. How do we expect to change the course of this country when we have ignored the biggest segment of our population i.e. youth.
11th July is celebrated as International Population Day and is a great reminder for us to do course correction by using our youth to change the course of Pakistan future by investing in our youth to make them high quality human beings — a critical area for the development of a country’s economic base. Historically, burgeoning population growth has been a cause of destabilization in the least developed countries because young minds, if not engaged in a constructive and purposeful activity are susceptible to extreme behaviors. A study conducted by Population Action International shows that about 80% of the world’s civil conflicts since the 1970s have occurred in countries with young, fast-growing populations.
Balochistan Rural Support Programme (BRSP) recognizes the gravity of this situation, therefore ensures engagement of youth in all its programmes. BRSP has a holistic approach towards youth empowerment through skills enhancement, civic engagement, sports activities, accelerated learning programmes, provision of assets for the establishment of small-scale enterprises, the establishment of Naukri ya karobar centers to link them with employers and digital hubs to give them access to technology. BRSP provided employable skills to overall 6,103 youth in Balochistan. Additionally, 13,265 youth of Madaris were enrolled in Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) to bridge the gap between informal and formal education.
BRSP with the financial support of PATRIP Foundation German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) repaired and renovated classrooms, established computer labs, libraries, WASH facilities, residential rooms of Madaris in different districts which benefitted 96,338 students. Additionally, 5,686 students from communities, educational institutions schools were taken on exposure visits to different educational institutes in Pakistan to exchange of ideas, learn best practices and interact with students from across the country. BRSP also organized 11,521 different recreational activities engaging 149,775 youth to promote, peace, harmony, and social cohesion.
A larger workforce is quite imperative for state development as demonstrated by China which raised herself from the rubbles of civil war. The most populous country in the world is surprisingly one of the largest growing economies because China was able to put its population to good use. China has the advantage that others lack, an incredibly skilled human resource that has been the lynchpin of their astronomical economic growth.
Those who believe that population impedes progress are gravely mistaken. If population stops a country’s growth, then Vatican City should have been the richest and China, the poorest. What we need to learn is how to utilize our population to its optimum level, China has already provided the blueprint for other populous countries to follow suit.
The Author is an M.Phil. Scholar at the University of Balochistan.