Investing in adolescents and youth in Pakistan

With one of the largest young populations in South Asia, Pakistan is one of 16 front-runner countries establishing a Generation Unlimited country-level partnership platform.

Catherine Weibel, Chief of Communication, UNICEF Pakistan.
3 young girls from Pakistan looking at the camera
UNICEF Pakistan/Shahryar
26 January 2021

With more than 65 million young people between 10 and 24 years old, Pakistan has one of the largest young populations in South Asia. It is one of 16 front-runner countries establishing a Generation Unlimited country-level partnership platform.

As part of the partnership, UNICEF has released Investing in Pakistan’s Young People, a study showcasing how public and private sector investment in adolescents’ and youth’s education, skills training and employment has the potential to reap immense benefits.

The study demonstrates that public and private sector investment in young Pakistanis’ education, skills training, employment, entrepreneurship and engagement would result in high returns on investment. It calls upon a range of stakeholders to further ramp up investments in Pakistan’s adolescents and youth.

For instance, increasing development expenditure on education by 10 per cent every year would add 1 percentage point to GDP growth. Investments in technical and vocational education and training (TVET) could lead to a 7 per cent gain in worker productivity and better employment prospects. Employment-related training would yield a 200 per cent overall return on investments and expanding decent work would help Pakistan slash inequality and result in significant economic growth.

The online release was attended by the Minister of Federal Education and Professional Training, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Youth Affairs, the Chairman of the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission which hosts the GenU Secretariat in Pakistan and the UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. Members of the private sector -- Unilever and Telenor -- and of two young finalists of the GenU Youth Challenge in Pakistan also participated.

“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," said Mr. Shafqat Mahmood, Minister of Federal Education and Professional Training. "Partnerships like Generation Unlimited will help the country build and enrich the ecosystem around skills, education and employment, and support young girls and boys to innovate. It will help leverage Government, public and private sector funds into our common goal: helping young people so they can help build the future'’.

UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Aida Girma and PSDF CEO Jawad Khan signing a partnership agreement as part of GenU
UNICEF Pakistan
UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Aida Girma and PSDF CEO Jawad Khan signed a partnership agreement as part of GenU

The Government of Pakistan is already making key investments in its youth cohort between the ages of 15 and 29 through Kamyab Jawan, a programme promoting skills development, entrepreneurship and access to micro-credit.

Generation Unlimited complements these efforts by promoting investment in the critical cohort aged 10-19. Consistent, tailored investments are more critical than ever as the world faces the devastating impact of COVID-19.

"The Government is engaging multisectoral stakeholders under Kamyab Jawan, producing an Adolescent Index and partnering on Adolescent development with UNICEF. Alongside the youth agenda, it is important that we invest in adolescents, so they have the skills they need to transition to youth and employment,” said Mr. Usman Dar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Youth Affairs. "Generation Unlimited will open more doors for collaboration and pooling of technical and financial resources with the public and the private sectors. Government investment in small and medium enterprises is critical to expand employment opportunities.  With the support of GenU, we will initiate programs connecting skills development with education and engage adolescents to shape their future and that of Pakistan – a kind of ‘Kamyab Jawan Junior’."

These efforts come at a time when Pakistan has the largest generation of young people in its History.

“It is critical to continue investing in adolescent girls and boys so they can achieve their full potential, said Ms. Aida Girma, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. This will in turn help Pakistan to take advantage of the youth dividend to support economic and social growth, close the gender gap and reduce exclusion and inequalities. This is a first step for the public-private Generation Unlimited platform in the country. It aims to provide youth, in particular out-of-school adolescents, with the quality education and skills training which they need, while helping them to access employment.”

In December, UNICEF signed a partnership agreement with the Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) to research, design and pre-test an accelerated and cost-effective ‘Non-Formal Education to Job Placement’ model as part of ‘Generation Unlimited’. It aims to improve the skills and employability of adolescent girls and boys who have never attended formal education, or who dropped out of the formal education system, in link with job placement.

The video of the event is available here and the report here.