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Youth employment and unemployment in Pakistan - an overview of 1990's

Mohammad, Irfan (2000): Youth employment and unemployment in Pakistan - an overview of 1990's.


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Productive utilization of youth is of critical importance for variety of reasons. Youth being the new entrants in the labour force offer an opportunity as well as a venue to elevate the employment structure to achieve higher levels of productivity. A prolonged spell of youth unemployment results into shortening of average working life besides rendering youth unemployable and embodied human capital suffers from obsolescence. In the developing country like Pakistan, productive utilization of youth ensures the accrual of benefits from educational investments often disproportionally made in youth. In addition in the absence of old-age benefits youth unemployment has serious repercussion for household welfare because of the parental dependance on children for old age support. In this paper an attempt is made to document the experience of Pakistani youth in the labour market with particular focus on the recent period.

Youth focused research efforts admittedly have to encounter number of difficulties. Neither is there any official definition of youth nor majority data sources permit youth specific analysis simply because the information on age-distribution is not readily available. In the context of youth specific analysis pertaining to labour market there are, however, some redeeming features. With the possible exception of data on emigration and technical/vocational training most of the available information can be tailored to infer youth related labour market aspects. In addition, youth, arbitrarily defined to be falling in the age cohort of 15-24 years, account for overwhelming promotion of incremental labour force, student body and unemployed. This makes the governmental policies envisaged to promote employment or education/training more relevant for youth.

Since generation of employment to a large extent depends upon the growth of the economy, first section of this paper briefly describes the performance of Pakistan's economy during 1990's. In addition to growth of the economy, poverty profile and income distribution is also discussed. Employment and unemployment as yielded by the latest Labour Force Survey (1996-97) finds its discussion in the second section of the paper.

Supply side factors such as population growth and recent emigration trends are contained in the third section. Current education and training programmes with focus upon youth participation are described in section four. Employment and private sector initiatives in the field of technical and vocational education are detailed in the fifth section. While section six contains a brief description of the impact of the Structural Adjustment Programmes on labour market, concluding remarks are provided in the final section.

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