Issue Brief on “Pakistan’s Population Explosion and the Youth Bulge”



Pakistan is globally recognised as a country facing challenges in controlling its population growth. Its alarming population growth rate of 2.4pc per annum, which translates to between 4m and 5m children being added to the total each year, is no less than an existential threat.[1] Unfortunately, there still appears to be no well-thought-out and cohesive population control program in the offing. With shrinking resources, Pakistan’s population is expected to increase from 2.4 to 2.8 which is an alarming trend. The government must address the issue by using all means.

The rapid growth of the population also poses serious risks to internal security. At 230m people, Pakistan is the fifth most populous nation in the world and is on track to around 300m by 2030. The National Security Policy announced at the beginning of 2022 rightly recognised human security as a precondition for internal security.[2] But nothing more has emerged on that score. The government needs to involve the media in creatively furthering the narrative about the benefits of limiting family size. That must be backed up with access to dependable family planning services through the public healthcare system. A recent major study jointly undertaken by several international organisations including WHO found that women in Pakistan have an estimated 3.8m unintended pregnancies each year, most resulting from unmet need for modern contraception. The data also showed that 52pc of married women of reproductive age who want to avoid pregnancy are not using a modern contraceptive method. We are now faced with a perfect storm. Inadequate investment in education and poor economic growth have generated enormous resentment and anger among a youth cohort that sees few prospects for advancement amid contracting employment opportunities. The effects of climate change are bearing down unmistakably upon us, and making scarce resources even more so. Unpredictable weather patterns and rising temperatures are adversely affecting harvests and exacerbating food insecurity. Population pressures also leave us much more vulnerable to international developments such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war that disrupt global supply chains. Shortages of water and electricity have already begun to spark unrest; the smallest provocation, it seems, is enough to trigger mob violence in a people whose patience has been stretched thin by poor governance, rising inflation and urban crime.

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