Pakistan is the fifth most populous and one of the youngest countries in the world. Currently, it has the largest generation of young people ever recorded in national history. Sixty-four percent (64%) of Pakistanis are below the age of 30, and 29% are aged between 15-29 years. Majority of our youth is living in an environment of multidimensional and intersectional vulnerability to socio-economic disparities, educational inequality, food insecurity, unprotected rights, and weakened rule of law. Youth illiteracy stands at 30%, majority of youth do not have access to recreational facilities (libraries, cinemas, parks etc.) in their localities. Roughly 44% of Pakistan’s total electorate comprises youth. The country has more people in the working age (15 to 64), than those who are older (65+), or children (15 years). Youth between 15-29 years make up 41.6% of Pakistan’s total labor force (between 15-64 years). Four million Pakistani youth attain working age every year. To absorb this populace into the job market, our country needs to create 4.5 million new jobs over the next five years (0.9 million jobs annually). These pertinent realities raise hard questions for our country’s future, which must be addressed as a matter of top national policy priority and human security.
The government has recently launched National Youth Development Framework (NYDF). The NYDF envisions three critical youth-centered investments — 1) Education; 2) Employment; and 3) Engagement. With the three ‘Es’ as cross-cutting concerns, the NYDF identifies strategic, practical and timely investments in following six major thematic areas as its scope of work to be executed through collaborative action by federal and provincial governments at national, provincial and grassroots levels.
- Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YES)
- Hunarmand Jawan (Skills for All) Program
- Green Youth Movement
- Startup Pakistan Program
- National Internship Program
- Jawan Markaz
Ehsaas Undergraduate Scholarship Program has been launched by the government through which 200,000 scholarships in four years to low-income families. Ehsaas Scholarship is the largest undergraduate scholarship program and would assist high-achievers from low-income families. It is a major initiative to enhance access to higher education as the government wanted to ensure that no student was deprived of education because of financial needs. 50 percent scholarships had been reserved for female students and the students with special needs and from remote areas are especially encouraged to apply. Five billion rupees will be allocated annually and 50,000 undergraduate students will be given scholarships each year along with accommodation expenses. These scholarships will be given on need and merit basis and will be provided in the areas of agriculture, arts and humanitarians, business education, engineering, medical, physical sciences and social sciences.
Around 38.8% of people in Pakistan suffer from poverty in one or other form, and 24.4% do not have enough money to satisfy their basic food and non-food needs. The government needs to identify the poor precisely to make government subsidies, targeted. In this regard, two new social protection programs are being introduced—Kifalat and Tahafuz. These will be executed through Benazir Income Support Program.
Kifalat: Under the program, 5.7 million women across the country will get savings accounts in the nearby banks on one woman one bank account policy. The women of impoverished areas, without the bank facilities, will be given mobile phones to receive the funds. As many as 5,000 ‘Digital Hubs’ will be established on district level all over the country, which will provide details about job opportunities for the local youth and will make the government’s digital resources accessible.
Tahaffuz: Tahaffuz or protection will provide one-time financial aid to the poor against catastrophic events. This may aid interest-free easy loans for house building (especially for landless farmers), free legal assistance in severe cases, financial aid for widows who don’t have children earning money, Ehsaas homes for orphan children, Panah-gahs (shelters) for homeless people, Health Cards for 3.3 million people which will cover several wide-ranging medical and surgical procedures including heart surgeries, stents, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, dialysis, maternity amongst others.
Ehsaas aims at adopting a universal health coverage policy in both federal and provincial levels with innovative technology tools to provide healthcare access to as many people as possible – especially in underprivileged areas.