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Lower population growth rate will present an opportunity for development

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ISLAMABAD: When population growth rate lowers, there can be a faster rate of economic growth and human development in Pakistan. This, however, is only possible if we understand the significance of the opportunity, known in economics as the demographic dividend, and exploit it to our benefit.

This was the crux of a seminar on “Capturing the Demographic Dividend in Pakistan” held by Population Council (PC), a non-governmental organisation, in collaboration with United Nations Population Fund here on Friday.

Explaining the concept of demographic dividend, PC Country Director Zeba Sathar said the phenomenon was first understood in 1960s when the impressive growth of East Asian countries was studied.

With lower population growth rate, the number of dependents also decline. This results in a higher

ratio of people in the labour force, which leads to a considerable increase in per capita output, according to research.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the chief guest, said the opportunity can only be seized if the rate of decline in fertility rate is accelerated in addition to improvement in education and employment opportunities.

She added that a strong political will is required to make the most out of this opportunity, while suggesting that the Lady Health Workers programme needs to be better equipped for effective outreach.

Similar ideas were shared by PC Vice President John Bongaarts during his presentation on “Population Trends and Policy Options for Pakistan”.

The presentation showed that the current population pyramid presented equal figures of dependent and working population.

However, Bongaarts suggested that the pyramid after two decades will be “bottle-shaped”, with a huge labour force and low dependency ratio. This, he concluded, is a huge opportunity for development.

According to Sathar, high quality family planning services can increase contraceptive prevalence (currently 2.5%) in the country to 50% by 2020.

As many as 3 million unwanted pregnancies can be averted each year and 100,000 infant and 500 maternal deaths can be prevented annually. This, in turn, will increase gross domestic product per capita, she said.


Courtesy:  Tribune

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