Investing in people, particularly by educating them, is no more a choice but a compulsion for Pakistan, insisted the key speakers at the Annual Population Conference that commenced in Islamabad. Education was recognized the key determinant to manage the growing population challenges posed to Pakistan – world’s sixth populous country with 180 million plus people.
Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, termed the burgeoning population challenges a ‘volcanic emergency’ that “needs to be resolved through collaboration of government, academia, businesses and development partners to make Pakistan a peaceful, progressive and prosperous society.” He advised the researchers and policymakers to be proactive so that Pakistan doesn’t lose the window of opportunity (through demographic dividend) to reach development and economic goals. He was The 14th Annual Research Conference titled “Pakistan’s Population: New Realities and Challenges for Human Development” has been arranged by Population Association of Pakistan (PAP) in collaboration with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST).
“Pakistan’s current demographic structure and the youth bulge offer a lifetime opportunity to make the country prosperous only by investing in people through education and health” stated Dr. Ashfaq Hassan Khan, principal of NUST Business School.
Improvements in educational opportunities to prepare young women and men for better paying jobs, a quality lifestyle in terms of health, life expectancy, and earning; and contribute to overall economic growth of the country. Better educated and healthy persons are more likely to contribute to population management of the country which in turn would lead toward economic growth for the country and better lifestyles for individuals, highlighted Dr. Zeba Sathar, an eminent Pakistani demographer. Studies also indicate that countries with higher literacy rates and overall educational attainment have lower total fertility rates.
Pakistan is a relatively young country since 50 percent of its population is below 20 years with a working age population of about 110 million. Labour surplus is a great opportunity that emerges from a demographic dividend and “improvements in education and health can transform this human capital into an asset that can lead toward the prosperity of individuals as well as country”, said Dr. Khan.
Offering a comparison of South Asia (Pakistan, India and Bangladesh) and East Asia (Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Thailand) over a period of 5 decades, he indicated that “only huge investments in education that has led the region toward economic and social development.” Most speakers stressed that human capital – particularly education and health – had important economic benefits society-wide. Education’s importance with respect to population as well as overall social and economic development was strongly endorsed at the conference which strengthened the linkages among population, education and development.
Ms Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President of PAP highlighted that Pakistan’s growing population also poses a serious threat to food insecurity.