UNDP Pakistan launched its second National Human Development Report – unleashing the potential of a young Pakistan highlighting some significant statistics for youth development. Youth form 64% of Pakistan’s population with an equal split between male and female. Out of this cohort, 25% have received no education, 16% have completed primary education, 40% reached the secondary level, 9% have completed higher secondary and only 6% received higher education. Regarding employment, the report indicates that 40% of youth are employed, whereas a large majority, 60%, are unemployed. Out of the ones unemployed, only 4% are seeking a job and 56% are not looking for a job. [1]

Drawing analysis from the given statistics, of the 40% employed youth, a small percentage has attained higher education and there is no evidence of their skill status. Also, the report does not specify the ratio of young people working in the formal and informal labour market. It focuses on the demand side of youth employment and talks about the creation of 21.1 million jobs till 2030, but does not provide a clear picture of different youth supply streams transitioning into the labor market. [1]

Drawing out of the statistics given above, there is a small fragment of workers in the entire youth dividend of the country. This segment possesses a certain education and skill level. On the other hand, there is a bigger bulk that is unemployed and with no education and skill set. A large majority of this segment has crossed the age of transitioning back into the mainstream education system. A small fraction of this group is looking for jobs. If we assess the alternatives for this group, like the adult literacy and numeracy programs we can see that these programs are not comprehensive enough to make them economically viable for gainful employment. A prerequisite for enrolling in a technical education program is 12 years of formal education and vocational training programs are outdated and do not suffice the needs of the market. Under these circumstances, the issue is not job creation, but our young people’s preparation for the job market. Even if the job market is lucrative enough to accommodate a certain percentage of youth, there is insufficient skilled or educated labour supply to fill these positions.

Evidence of such cases exists in large-scale construction projects as CPEC, where Chinese shared their labour due to the shortage of skilled labour in Pakistan. Various reports indicate that less than 25% of Chinese labour is engaged in these projects, yet there is an anticipation that this number will increase as per the requirements of these projects.[2] For other development schemes in real estate and energy sector where the mass labour force is required, investors have highlighted that the abundant labour pool in Pakistan only offers a broad generalist skill set and it is difficult to identify specified/expert skill sets.

It gets more complicated and alarming when we see that the majority of unemployed youth, at 56%, are not looking for jobs. Stating this number is not enough to generate a meaningful discussion unless we identify where the problem exists. Whether it is an issue of lack of education or if this disinterest generates from the social and political situation of the country. This apathy from the potential productive human capital exhibits a distressing situation for the economy of the country. This millennial generation has suffered conflict and distress prevailing over a decade, so their issues and challenges are not as simple as they are posed.

In order to establish an all-inclusive roadmap for youth development, it is highly imperative to assess beyond the simple narrative of stating education and employment participation level and dig deeper into the root cause of this status-quo.

[1] http://www.pk.undp.org/content/pakistan/en/home/library/human-development-reports/PKNHDR.html

[2] https://tribune.com.pk/story/1429131/cpec-provides-jobs-30000-pakistanis/