Speakers of seminar on International Youth Day urge government tap the potential of its youth bulge
LAHORE: (Friday, 11 August) – “Currently, 64 percent of Pakistan population is younger than 30 years of age. The country now has more young people than it has ever had, and this is forecasted to continue to increase until at least 2050. Because the youth have the power to transform a country’s future, they could be the engines of development. Or their disillusionment could lead to social unrest. We cannot empower our youth through distribution of laptops only, rather green jobs for women and youth are need of the hour. The unemployment rate among degree holders is three times higher than the overall unemployed people. Though Pakistan can reach its peak through the power of youth, but we are not even able to at least educate or employ half of them.”
These views were expressed by the speakers and participants of a public seminar, on “Green Skills for Youth: Towards A Sustainable World”, organized by WISE – Women in Struggle for Empowerment, in connection with International Youth Day 2023, here at a local hotel on Friday, 11 August. A large number of young girls and university/college students joined the event.
Speaking on the occasion, Bushra Khaliq Executive Director WISE said that over the last decade, young people have increasingly been viewed as a key demographic group within Pakistan. This youth bulge will only grow in the coming years. Thus, it can be reasonable to state that the social, political, and economic fortunes of Pakistan are closely tied to the development and empowerment of its young people. The smartest investment the country can make today is to capitalize on its young generation and provide it with the ability to adapt, learn and innovate solutions to address challenges that pertain to poverty, education, health, the economy, and the environment, she emphasized.
Talking about problems being faced by youth, she said one of the major obstacles for Pakistani youth is the absence of employment opportunities. Pakistan has the 9th largest labor force in the world, which is increasing every year. The saddest part is that the unemployment rate among degree holders is three times higher than the overall unemployed people.
She said today, the world is embarking on a green transition. The shift towards an environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly world is critical not only for responding to the global climate crisis but also for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A successful transition towards a greener world will depend on the development of green skills in the youth population. The green jobs contribute to preserving or restoring the environment either by supporting environmentally-friendly processes or through the production of green products and services. Young people need to be well-equipped with green skills so that they can successfully navigate this changing environment and leverage the opportunities that it presents, she added.
Addressing the participants, Professor. Irum Khalid, head of Political Science Department, Punjab University, said youth plays the most effective role in strengthening any country. It is to them that a nation builds up or demount. Looking forward to this advantage, Pakistan is one of those few countries that have the largest young population in the world. Though Pakistan can reach its peak through the power of such youngsters, we are not even able to at least educate or employ half of them. There are infinite skills hidden in our youth that go unrecognized, she lamented.
She said, there are around universities in Pakistan, but we lack data around subjects needed to be introduced and skills required to be imparted, which is the main reason of unemployment among degree holders. The only way through which this large number of jobs can be created is to intensify innovation and entrepreneurial activity. It is well-established that a rise in innovation and entrepreneurial activity in an economy results in a considerable growth of industry clusters, investment and job creation, opined Dr. Irum.
Speaking on the occasion, Muqadass Majeed – a young writer and student of Sociology department of Punjab University highlighted the intergenerational and inter inter-gender gaps the current literature, being produced in the country. Since majority of the writers is men and they tend the present female gender from their male perspective, which is not true. It is not difficult to become a writer. Passion is pivotal to achieve success, she said adding that young women should come forward and express their potential through literature. Talking about the lack of confidence among young girls as compare to young boys, she said per our social norms parents and families give more attention and love to their sons as compare to daughters. This social attitude at family level in early years cause multiple psychological problems among girls, she opined.
Esha Shahid, clinical psychologist sharing her experiences said majority of Pakistani youth is highly disturbed. Their social well-being is need of the hour, especially young population in urban areas, is under more stress than their rural counterparts probably due to cut-throat competition, limited opportunities and careless use of social media. Furthermore, traditional mindset and social pressures related to the selection of subjects, career, marriage, and other life choices have made their issue grimmer. She highlighted the importance of careful use of social media by today’s youth as it is one of major cause of social anxiety and depression among youth. Moreover, there is a lack of aptitude assessment and career counselling prospects in Pakistan, even at the university level. She urged the need for effective career counselling of students at school and college level.
Amina Afzal, Project manager WISE speaking on this occasion said, Institutions of higher education, worldwide, may train their students to become entrepreneurs so that they graduate as job-creators rather than as job-seekers. The future of work is changing, and new sectors demand higher-value skills. If Pakistan is to prepare all its young people for the future world of work, it needs major public and private investments in education, skills development and scaled-up solutions. There is urgent need to build and enrich the ecosystem around skills, education and employment, and support young girls and boys to innovate’’ she added.
Among other speakers were also include; Sahib-e-Asra, a Pakistani athlete, Ishrat Nawaz- a rowing player from Lahore College for women university, Ms. Roshni-a Baloch student of Punjab university and Anam Khan, a differently able young woman, who shared their views and inspired the participants by sharing the stories of their struggles in life. They said Pakistan’s constitution promises free education to all school age children. Unfortunately, currently, 25 million children in Pakistan are out of school. For this, the government needs to increase the allocation of the budget to the education department.