14th Annual Research Conference on Pakistan Population: New Realities and Challenges for Human Development - Speech by Marc-André Franche, Country Director, UNDP in Pakistan

20 Nov 2013

Speech by Marc-André Franche, Country Director, UNDP Pakistan

His Excellency Professor Ahsan Iqbal, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Government of Pakistan

Lt General (Retired) Muhammad Asghar, Rector, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST)

Begum Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President, Population Association of Pakistan

Dr. Ali Mir, Vice President, Population Association of Pakistan 

Members of provincial authorities, International Participants,

Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentleman

Contrary to many other discipline, Population dynamics and demographics and its impact on socio economic policy and politics is quite an exact science.  As I was told in my first political science class it is effectively like having a crystal ball telling us the future. 

I therefore want to congratulate the Association for holding this conference every year for the last 14 years; given the significant challenges faced by the country; we need more policy dialogues and debates based on sound research and evidence. 

Population trends in South Asia:

I realize you will be analyzing in details the latest population figures and forecasts over the next few days so I only want to recall some of the most crucial regional and national trends which will determine the success or failure of the next generation of development strategies over the next half century.

  • Today Asia’s share of global population has risen to 60.2% from 55% in 1950 but will decline to 45% by 2050 as a result of falling fertility rates particularly in East Asia but also in South Asia which now totals 2.7 children per women down from 6.1 in 1950, or only 0.2 children per woman over the global average.   

Population trends in Pakistan:

  • Pakistan is  now the sixth largest population in the World growing at 1.9% a year, the equivalent of New Zeland every year or Australia every five. It will reach 270-350m by 2050.  According to the latest Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey report; fertility rates stands at 3.8 considerably higher than the South Asian average.  Despite a significant decrease Pakistan will unfortunately not meet the MDG target of 2.1 births per woman by the end of 2015.
  • This is particularly the case in rural areas, where contraception use is much lower rates also vary across provinces.  In Pakistan and elsewhere contraceptive use is closely related to education.
  • More important for policy makers than population growth is the changing structure of the country’s population.  The number of those below 14 years old will start to stagnate after 2035, due to fertility decline, but the working age group aged between 15–64 years old and the elderly will continue to increase.  In 2050 67% or 236 m people will be in the working age group. 
  • This will mean rapid urbanization with its opportunities for growth and human development but also challenges for social cohesion and governance.  Importantly sometime, after 2050 Asia and Pakistan will age rapidly; According to the WHO; where most developed countries took 100 years to double their elderly population, Asia , including Pakistan will do so in 20 years.
  • This working age group surge or youth bulge is a significant historic opportunity for Pakistan; it may also become the most daunting of the challenging to the countries development. 
  • The answer depends on the country’s leaders decisions, the quality fo the consensus on policies and the capacity of the country to stick to a plan adopted in the next few years.  Pakistan will not get this opportunity a second time for many centuries.   

What could be a few mechanisms for converting demographic opportunities into demographic dividend?

What does global and specially regional experiences tell us about how to tap this demographic dividend.  The experience is quite compelling; those societies which have successfully grown; improving human development to challenge the levels of developed countries reducing poverty and inequality share six significant measures: 

1. They have all maximized human potential by investing massively in education and skills:

According to our 2013 Human Development Report, countries with the fastest economic growth rates have invested in people to make best of trade opportunities. For example, China increased the competencies of its workers and firms by requiring foreign firms to enter into joint ventures, transfer technology or meet high requirements for domestic content. Korea imported technology under licensing agreement and developed links with multinational firms. The goal was to build indigenous capabilities for the long haul by borrowing and assimilating foreign technologies. 

All of those countries expanded education and vocational training opportunities  for youth to develop the skills required for productive employment.  This is particularly the case as you know for girls and women who’s higher education levels have catalytic effects on health and a broad range of indicators.   

2. Secondly, They have mobilizing savings and expanded investment opportunities 

As the working population expands and the dependent population shrinks, increased earnings were converted into higher savings. With additional incentives from the government, these savings were utilized for business opportunities and investments to create more jobs  

Savings were used to finance public projects such as in transportation, education and health, and long term savings can also support pension and retirement plans

3. They have met the aspirations of youth, creating opportunities including employment 

According to our 2013 report again, countries, which have seen rapid progress, have also undertaken pragmatic policies to create remunerative jobs. This was true for Malaysia and Thailand in the 1970s, China and Indonesia in the 1980s, and India and Viet Nam in the 1990s. Such states have also invested heavily in people’s capabilities – through health, education and other public services. 

They have recognized, cultivated and seized the powerful potential of youth and Pakistan completed a few months ago its consultations on what Pakistanis think the next Global development Goals should be, replacing the MDGs post 2015.  An overwhelming majority of Pakistanis insisted on goals tracking youth inclusion and employment.  The recent youth development program launched by the Federal government is a tremendously important initiative, which needs to be expanded, notably by Provincial Governments. 

4. They have empowered Women; and have done so intently. 

Reduced fertility rates are closely associated with acceleration in growth and human development. 

         Successful countries have empower women to decide on the number and timing for having children and promote their active participation in economic, social and political life. As it is now documented women who lack education and economic opportunities tend to bear more children, and these children often lack access to education and economic opportunities.

         Such poverty traps must be broken through decisive policies that help women with improved family planning, access to education and livelihood opportunities.   

5. They had Pro active States 

Countries that have made significant achievements in human development are “strong, proactive and responsible states”. Such countries have shown commitment to long-term development and reforms. For example, China has pursued a long-term vision to build the necessary institutions and capacities for transforming its economy.  They not only had a plan but they stuck to in, with strong monitoring and accountability tools gearing the entire state machinery to accomplish it.

This is why we are supportive all the efforts of the Planning Commission of Pakistan to foster dialogue, encourage research and evidence based policies to enact reforms on the basis of long term visioning.  It is very encouraging that the Planning Commission has adopted a consultative process to engage multi stakeholders and to gather their inputs for the Vision 2025 and the 11th Five Year Plan. The National Consultation Conference by the Planning Commission is actually being held on this Friday; and we are very happy to support this process. 

6. Sixth, Finally, those countries which have turned their demographic opportunities into strong human development have built the essential institutional set-up to do so. 

China or Indonesia for example substantially reformed their civil service. It replaced “old guard, who might have been expected to resist change, with a younger, more open and better educated bureaucracy. By 1988, a remarkable 90% of officials had been appointed since 1982. Strong results orientation of civil servants to achieve the objectives of modernization and economic progress was the key parameter. 

The Vision 2025 has already prioritized social development, institutional and governance reforms, investing in youth and poverty reduction as some of its key focus areas. 

UNDP has had long standing partnership with the Planning Commission of Pakistan and the provinces in supporting long term policies and programmes in favor of human development. We are currently partnering with the Planning Commission in a number of areas including MDGs monitoring and are now building a solid multiyear and multi partner program to support the vision of the minister.

In conclusion, I would like to emphasize the import of evidence-based research for informed policy making especially those related to population dynamics.

Institutions like the Population Association of Pakistan play a crucial role in fostering this research and debate and in helping hold decision makers accountable. 

Thank you very much