Education and population: Closely linked trajectories for Pakistan

Wazir, A., Goujon, A. ORCID:, & Lutz, W. ORCID: (2013). Education and population: Closely linked trajectories for Pakistan. In: Capturing the Demographic Dividend in Pakistan. Eds. Sathar, ZA, Royan, R, & Bongaarts, J, pp. 25-40 New York, USA: Population Council.

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Pakistan faces high levels of population growth entailing a large population of schooling age, and low levels of economic development with increasing spread of poverty and unemployment over the past few decades. Consequently, some 39 percent of 15.24-year-old Pakistani women and 21 percent of men were illiterate in 2009. The prevalence of illiteracy in the country is therefore large, especially among women: 61 percent were illiterate in 2009, compared to 31 percent of men. On the positive side, enrollment rates point toward progress as 74 percent of children were enrolled in primary school and two-thirds of children were completing the full 5-year cycle of primary education. Out of these primary-educated children, 75 percent were moving on to secondary-level studies. However, universal enrollment of all children aged 5 to 16 years in compulsory education is far from being achieved. More than 7 million children, mostly those in rural area, are estimated to be out of school.

The next few decades will be crucial for Pakistan as the majority of its population will be of working age: the median age in Pakistan is 22 years. It is well established internationally that investments in primary and secondary education to increase the access of both boys and girls and the resulting gains in human capital of younger adults are key drivers of economic growth and poverty alleviation. More specifically, studies such as Abbasa and Foreman-Peck (2007) show that a larger stock of human capital is crucial for economic growth, particularly as it relates to the ability of the labor force to absorb new technologies.

Progress in education is closely intertwined with the demographic and development history of countries. There are two explanations for those linkages. First, education levels clearly influence demographic behavior. The most visible illustration of this is the impact of education on women's fertility, which is systematically lower at higher levels of educational attainment. This negative relationship between education and fertility has been recognized in all countries at all stages of development, and is particularly strong in countries, like Pakistan, that are in the middle of the demographic transition. Hence further increases in education, especially in a context where women's needs for contraception are largely met, can lower fertility levels and consequently the future rate of population growth.

The second explanation is that education at the macro-level acts as a good proxy for development. Hence measuring a population's educational attainment, whether in the work force or overall, is a valid measure of the well-being of individuals and societies more generally. This is well reflected in the three components of the Human Development Index (HDI), which is comprised of education, health, and economic status. In turn, both health and economic growth crucially depend on education. Even beyond these classic dimensions of development education is critical for the quality of governance, autonomy of women, and civic freedom. Education enables a country to propel itself on a successful development path as exemplified, for example, by the Asian Tigers.

Item Type: Book Section
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:49
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2023 05:00

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