Pakistan Continues To Rank Low On Youth Development

Out of 181 countries, Pakistan ranked 162 on the 2020 Global youth development ranking that evaluates the position of youth in 181 countries around the globe. Singapore ranked top for the first time followed by Slovenia, Norway, Malta and Denmark, while Chad, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Afghanistan and Niger finished at the bottom, respectively.
The triennial rankings, released by the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, Bangladesh ranked third from the bottom among South Asian nations on the Global Youth Development Index 2020 in securing equality and economic inclusion as well as employment opportunities for young people ahead of Pakistan.
Pakistan, out of all the10 lowest-placed countries in the Commonwealth, is the only one not part of Sub-Saharan Africa and experts maintain this aspect is more worrisome. The developments in youth education, employment, health, equality and inclusion, peace and security, and political and civic participation are focused upon, while the countries are rated in the index between 0.00 (lowest) and 1.00 (highest). Literacy and voting to demonstrate the position of the world’s 1.8 billion people between the age of 15 and 29 are pondered upon with other 27 indicators.
Pakistan’s score dropped by 64.29 per cent, from a relatively low score of 0.168 in 2010, which observers say is in conformity with the snapshots of the recent index.
Experts note that countries that are still in the developing phase, specifically Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Cambodia, have made their access to the internet better, accurate information along with greater freedom of movement and opportunity for female youth, particularly in rural areas are being seen as essential by youth. Youth, from all the audiences, yearn for the vicious acts of child marriage and domestic violence to be held back.
Followed by India, Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh in the region, Afghanistan managed to improve in gender parity in literacy, economic marginalisation, early marriage and gender parity in safety and security.
The report further stated that the index further unveils that the state of youth has been made better by 3.1 per cent between 2010 and 2018 around the globe but the progress is still very sluggish.
Analysts say the rising cases of child marriages are because they are done in the name of culture or even religion, while poverty is also believed to be another biggest driver of child marriage in Pakistan. The issues, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan, have deep roots of ‘culture’, ‘norm’ and ‘tradition’.
According to a recent report, with an alarming 31.3 per cent, child marriage is the most horrifying among the many serious poverty-related issues plaguing Pakistan. One of the major concerns of the people is the marriage of their children, mainly because the underprivileged families seldom send their children to schools.
In one such shocking incident, a 64-year-old sitting lawmaker of Jamiat-Ulema-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Salahuddin Ayubi married a 14-year-old minor girl from Chitral in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, raising serious questions and demands of explanation from the party leadership in the parliament.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry demanded the JUI-F leadership to come out with an explanation on the marriage of the lawmaker with a minor girl, terming the reported marriage as “very disturbing news”.
“The reported marriage of a JUI-F MNA with a young girl was a violation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act,” Chaudhry said.
“Marriage… not only requires physical maturity but also sound judgement,” notes Kishwar Enam, a member of the child welfare initiative Kasur Hamara Hai.
“Consent is also a prerequisite for marriage in which both individuals should independently be able to accept or refuse according to their own free will. The question arises: are children intellectually mature enough to know what is good or bad for them?”
Child labour is another major issue as the exploitation of children in terms of physical, sexual, economic and emotional violence has been acting as a continuous impediment in their growth and development in Pakistan.
Around 3.3 million Pakistani children are threatened by child labour that deprives them of their childhood, health and education, according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef).
From a very early age, children indulge in rigorous domestic or industrial works to support their families. In Pakistan, despite observing UN child labour laws, it has become a common sight to hire children for performing household chores especially young girls whom women find easy to get along with. They pay their parents heavily in return and sometimes bribe them who in the greed of wealth sign a lifelong pact with those families that enables them to earn a good source of livelihood.
Meanwhile, the Employment of Children Act 1991 passed by the parliament that prohibits employing children under 14 years of age in unsafe and hazardous environments such as factories, carpet industries and mines is just piece of legislation only restricts child labour up to the age of 14.
The other factors responsible for Pakistan’s low ranking include population, lack of skilled education, less educational opportunities for girls, religious and cultural hurdles in the way of girls’ education and less job opportunities.
“There can be no one-size-fits-all solutions; responses need to be adapted to the very diverse environments in which child labour still occurs,” notes Chihoko Asada-Miyakawa, International Labour Organisation’s Assistant Director General and Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.