THE PAKISTAN DEVELOPMENT REVIEW
Demographic Dividend or Demographic Threat in Pakistan?
Population growth and size have remained the focus of debate for centuries but the recent demographic transition in developing countries has made social scientists take note of the changing age structure of the population as well. As a result of declining population growth and consequent changes in age structure, the proportion of working-age population is increasing in most developing countries. An associated decline in the dependent age population offers a window of opportunity, referred to as the ‘demographic dividend’. Pakistan is also going through the demographic transition, and is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime demographic dividend as the working-age population bulges and the dependency ratio declines. This paper looks into the demographic dividend being offered to Pakistan and its implications for the country, mainly through three mechanisms: labour supply, savings, and human capital. For economic benefits to materialise, there is a need for policies dealing with education, public health, and those that promote labour market flexibility and provide incentives for investment and savings. On the contrary, if appropriate policies are not formulated, the demographic dividend might, in fact, be a cost, leading to unemployment and an unbearable strain on education, health, and old age security.