Can Pakistan Avert Demographic Doom?


On May 11, Pakistan’s Election Day, approximately 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. This figure far exceeded the 44 percent who turned out for Pakistan’s previous election in 2008. Media reports have featured moving accounts of the elderly being carried to the polls, and of women standing in the heat for hours to cast their ballots.

Yet one of the most defining features of the voting population was its youth. About a fifth of Pakistan’s 85 million registered voters were between 18 and 25 years old, with another 15 percent between the ages of 26 and 30.

Young people represent, by far, Pakistan’s largest demographic. The statistics are striking: Two thirds of the country’s approximately 180 million people are not yet 30 years old, and the median age is 21. As a percentage of the total population, only Yemen has more people under 24.

Little wonder youth were courted so aggressively on the campaign trail – from Imran Khan’s social media-fueled populist calls for change to Nawaz Sharif’s distribution of free laptops.

Projections suggest that Pakistan’s youth bulge will remain in place for decades. The 15-to-24 age bracket is expected to rise by 20 percent in the 2020s, and the under-24 population will still be in the majority come 2030. Even by 2050, the median age is expected to be just 33.

Demographers often speak of the “dividend” that can result from this youth-heavy population. If, they argue, these kids are properly educated and incorporated into the workforce (and particularly into burgeoning high-growth sectors like IT), then Pakistan’s sputtering economy could truly take off—and perhaps, in time, even replicate the economic triumphs of India.

Unfortunately, this will be no easy feat.

Pakistan’s government – thanks in great part to the country’s powerful military, which consumes large portions of the national budget – has never invested in the education of its masses. Consider that today, more than 40 million of Pakistan’s 70 million 5-to-19-year olds are not in school.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Planning Commission (a government advisory body) has estimated that employing the country’s nearly 100-million-strong under-20 population will require 9 percent GDP growth – a highly ambitious goal given that growth is expected to top out at only 3.6 percent for the current fiscal year, and that interminable power outages are undermining growth. The Asian Development Bank recently said that such outages will cut GDP growth by 2 percent annually.

Making matters worse is the fact that the Ministry of Youth has been abolished. Pakistan’s 18th constitutional amendment, passed in 2010, shifts numerous central-government responsibilities and resources to the provinces. The functions of many federal ministries (including youth, health, and agriculture) have effectively been turned over to already overburdened provincial authorities, who often lack the capacity to take them on. As a result, Pakistan’s youth policies are in flux.

Consequently, the country could soon face a new generation of uneducated and unemployed youth – a threat to stability in the notoriously volatile nation. Experts point to a combination of factors that could produce widespread youth radicalization in Pakistan. These include “push” factors such as socioeconomic inequality and hardline ideological narratives peddled by the media and school textbooks, and “pull” factors such as the country’s sharp demand for extremists. This strong market for militants can be attributed in part to the Pakistani security establishment’s historic sponsorship of sectarian and anti-India extremist organizations.

Christopher Braganza
July 13, 2013 at 19:35

I do agree with people who say it is a Hinjew conspiracy. Why cant people take responsibility for their own acts. 

Christopher Braganza
July 13, 2013 at 19:22

Sardar Khan you people amaze me. Kashmir is not the only unfinished agenda of partition. Why just the Kashmir, why not the entire muslim population of India. You should invite them too. 

Second, you people should take back the Bihari Muslims and save the Bangladeshis the trouble. 

And you people keep on harping about Muslims facing persecution. Why dont you hypocrites talk about the Muslims in CHina, the Kurds under Turkey 




Stan Coombes
June 9, 2013 at 22:09

Do not forget.India should push all those Bunderstani Muslim Bunders to Pakistan.How about that.Make you happy?That way India will get rid of its saboteurs from inside and Pakistanis do not have to produce 6-8 rats/family

June 9, 2013 at 16:49

The Problem is not With Islam, but it is with the way islam is being preached to the uneducated downtrodden masses in south Asia, there are a lot of well educated and very mordenised muslims in both India and Pakistan who would be averse to the concept of 6-8 kids as they have felt the fruits of education  and the gains that smaller families bring. However this will only come from education and for this Islamic education needs to be mordenised much as the chistian reformation of martin luther and the hindu reformation of raja rammohun roy ,without this reformation and mordenisation Islamic values will tend to get misinterpreted by dubious preachers with dubious interests and the poor downtrodden masses that flock to them will keep having larger and larger families creating to demographic pressures on both nations leading to an implosion sooner or later.

Security Analyst
June 8, 2013 at 08:09

@Anjaan. Britain has problems of its own: deep, growing culture of dependence on state welfare, weak immigration policy an economy shattered by the sub- prime mortgage. Ask Britain to take a lead? First tell me the value of existing annual remittances from UK back to Pakistan.

Some might suggest that Pakistan needs governance and leadership to become a single nation, before in needs more money. #Mumbai #Pashtun

June 8, 2013 at 03:13

Perhaps the biggest irony is the failure to even conduct a population census. So all these are estimates & guesses while the state & society remain callous about their own future.

Sardar KHAN
June 8, 2013 at 00:20

An other islamicphobic bunderstani(indian) is spreading mischeif against Muslims in international media..You are criticising Muslim's for growth in population but ignore the social burdens put on them by the majority hindus.And still your people are terrorising Kashmiris to keep them occupied a majoriy Muslims.If you are so afraid of Muslims,then set Kashmir free and less Muslims in your country.Remember your own thinking that Muslims are breading fast and by same token population of Kashmir will be doubled in next 30years.What a nightmare for poor hindus of bunderstan.So act on the good advice before it is too late for your terrorist army to keep occupied for long,let Kasmiris decide their on fate in free plebicite as promised by your great lair Nehru.

June 7, 2013 at 18:27

No one helps the one who cannot stand on their own feet……………stop expecting others to clean your house for you………………make tough choices and only then their is going to be some hope for your country…………best wishes

June 7, 2013 at 12:38

Pakistan invests heavily in military and that is where the answer lies. As the only Islamic country with a nuclear force, Pakistan can be of immense worth to Saudi Arabia, etc. Particularly against a possible nuclear Iran. Saudi investments can be channelled to education and healthcare. Bulging youth population is a big boon in this regard. They can also take part in a "security outsource" by rich middle eastern monarchs to maintain peace in their kingdoms. USA can also tap into this vast resource to man the vital Middle East. Due to their religious affiliations, they will be most welcomed in other parts of the Middle East.

At some point Pakistan will overtake Indonesia as the world's largest Islamic population. Given this possibility, it makes perfect sense for Saudi Arabia to invest in Pakistan heavily.

June 6, 2013 at 10:59

The author also blind to some (supposedly) simple solutions, that is birth control and abolition of child marriage, but sadly because Islam culture that practically demand explosive breeding these solutions are imposible to be implemented in Pakistan. Thus from Pakistan's point of view they can eased their demographic doom by  these temporary solutions:

a. Extort money from USA by waving terorism issue and posible nuclear black market

b. Extort money from China for making Beijing's pawn in balancing Indian influence in South Asia

c. Extort money from India by threatening to excalate conflict in Kashmir and thus destroy Kasmir's fragile economic recovery

d. Invade and occupy Afganistan to make temporary windfall in teritory term (that in long term can be translated to increased water supply, agriculture land, mining rights, etc), while this will become drainage in Pakistan budget, if they playing right they can reap long term benefits and either military spending already become huge drainage in Pakistan budget against India threat, so they just need to shift them against Afganistan, India can be deterred by nuclear and terrorist threat, because be honest; it,s usually Pakistan that try to invade India (from four Indo-Pakistani wars, three of them initiated by Pakistani force, what a bunch of losers)

June 6, 2013 at 05:40

Yes, I agree with you. The same problem is occuring in India with overall population growth rates dropping, but the muslim growth rates increasing exponentially! This is certain to put a strain on any countries resources!

I had a similiar argument with my friend who is a Indian muslim and says that children are God's gift and they cannot leave them unaccepted! What they don't understand is that children are regarded as God's gift in all religions! But the key is if you are really eligible to receive that gift! A poor man having 6-8 kids will not be able to provide all of them the quality food and education which is every child's right.

hacim obmed
June 6, 2013 at 03:24

Totally hopeless and depressing. 

June 5, 2013 at 22:35

I have a suggestion for you, STOP breeding like there is no tomorrow!

If you are struggling to feed, cloth and house yourself you shouldn’t bring 6 and 8 kids into the world.

June 5, 2013 at 22:04

Where is Britain, Pakistan's closest ally and mentor ……. ? …….. let Britain take the lead in investing into Pakistan's economy and save the future generations …….

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