E Magazine Issue 11 February 2020

Our House Is On Fire!

wedish teenager and now the quintessential global face of the urgent call for climate action, Greta Thunberg, addressed the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos on January 21, 2020. It was the schoolgirl’s second appearance at WEF, last year being the teenager’s breakaway year as a global climate action icon.  The Swede first hit the headlines in 2018 when she went on School Strike for Climate in her hometown, calling on the Swedish government to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Paris Agreement. She protested outside the Swedish Parliament every day for three weeks missing school while she did so.Ever since, Greta’s name has become synonymous with climate activism, as she has been known to make some of the world’s most powerful leaders, especially US President Donald Trump, uneasy with her straight talking jibes. 

At Davos this year, she reminded world leaders that she had called for panic. “One year ago I came to Davos and told you that our house is on fire. I said I wanted you to panic. I’ve been warned that telling people to panic about the climate crisis is a very dangerous thing to do. But don’t worry. It’s fine. Trust me, I’ve done this before and I can assure you it doesn’t lead to anything.”

Rebuking world leaders for their inaction over the climate crisis, Geta said, “Let’s be clear. We don’t need a ‘low carbon economy’. We don’t need to ‘lower emissions’. Our emissions have to stop if we are to have a chance to stay below the 1.5-degree target. And, until we have the technologies that at scale can put our emissions to minus, then we must forget about net zero. We need real zero.”She also put forward some demands to the World Economic Forum and participants that included top companies, banks, institutions and governments.She called for an immediate halt to all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction,An immediate end to all fossil fuel subsidies, and an immediate and complete divestment of fossil fuels.In her concluding remarks, she shamed the world leaders yet again.

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fueling the flames by the hour.”


PM Announces Skills Development Programme, In Collab With WEF

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced the formation of National Accelerator on Closing the Skills Gap in Pakistan, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum, with Punjab Skills Development Fund (PSDF) serving as its national secretariat. The announcement was made during a meeting held between PM and World Economic Forum President Broge Brende at the PM Office.


Workplace Order For Youngsters In Developing Countries Needs Improvement

Almost 20 percent of youngsters, aged 15 and 25, from developing countries or emerging markets were neither studying nor working, per an article published on the World Economic Forum website.  Moreover, youngsters in developing countries were facing tough market conditions and job shortages, particularly in developing economies including Brazil, Malaysia and Ghana.


Bibliotherapy: Using Reading And Writing To Mend Broken Lives

The healing effect of books has been recognized by academicians and researchers and has undergone a resurgence, leading to the proliferation of the art of bibliotherapy on a global level. According to a recent article published on The Conversation website, for almost 100 years reading and writing have helped veterans in building positive relationships, gaining confidence and facing challenges after post-service lives.


Italian Students Moving In With Elderly To Fight Expenses… And Loneliness

Young out-of-city Italian students are moving in with old-aged people in order to save money in exchange for some light domestic wok, an initiative that is also helping elderly population fight loneliness.


Fund’s Efforts Focused Most On Pakistan: Nobel Laureate Malala

Pakistani Nobel laureate and noted girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai has said that her fund was striving hard to improve girls’ access to education in Pakistan.


Human Capital: Why Pakistan’s ‘Prized’ Youth Bulge isn’t Helping Much?

Pakistan was placed 125th out of 130 countries studied by the World Economic Forum for its Global Human Capital Development Report 2017. Let that sink. One hundred and twenty fifth of a total 130 countries. As appalling as it is, the country’s rank becomes even more worrisome when one considers the nations that managed to fare better than ours. Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Lesotho, Chad and Liberia were among the countries that ranked higher than Pakistan.

Many of these countries are far poorer than Pakistan and have been ravaged by civil wars for years at a stretch. However, The World Economic Forum (WEF) report says the development of human capital in these remained more impressive than in Pakistan.

According to WEF, the Human Capital Index 2017 studied 130 countries to gauge how “well they are developing their human capital on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) across four thematic subindexes—Capacity, Deployment, Development and Know-how—and five distinct age groups or generations—0–14 years; 15–24 years; 25–54 years; 55–64 years; and 65 years and over.

The comprehensive study was undertaken to measure the complete human capital potential profile of a country and researchers claim it can be “used as a tool to assess progress within countries and points to opportunities for cross-country learning and exchange”. The capacity sub-index measured the percentage of population that has “achieved at least primary, (lower) secondary or tertiary education, respectively, and the proportion of the population that has a basic level of literacy and numeracy”. The deployment sub-index measured how many people are able to participate actively in the workforce, while the know-how score measured the “breadth and depth of specialized skills use at work”. Development sub-index took stock of “formal education of the next-generation workforce and continued upskilling and reskilling of the current workforce”.

Pakistan performed rather poorly in all these sub-indices. It was ranked 111th for capacity, 123rd for both deployment and development, while it fared marginally better, 96th, than its neighbours for know-how.

Youth disuse?

The median age of Pakistan’s population is 22.5 years, making the county one of youngest among the comity of nations. China’s median age in comparison is 39 years, while Japan’s is 46.3. Political sermons and talk show debates make us believe that the young population makes Pakistan ready for an economic take-off. Sadly, the youth cannot enable that flight without the requisite know-how, skills and capacity. An alarming statistic from the same report points to a greater problem. WEF estimates that the median years of education the Pakistani population receives is 4.6 years. Just 4.6 years! Contrarily, its 12.5 years for Japan and 12 years for Norway, the top ranked country in the index.

The reasons for the paltry average schooling median of 4.6 for Pakistan are many; limited access to schools, poor in-school facilities, departmental corruption, parent attitude towards education, especially girls’, substandard training of teachers and economic hardships of families making way for a high dropout rate from schools etc. But the primary reason for the sorry state of affairs of our country’s human capital has to be a serious lack of an educational vision at the policy level. Education and its provision have never remained a priority. For evidence, we need not go much further than the fact that a vast majority of our population still believes education does no good. In more than 65 years of its existence, the state hasn’t been able to make the idea of education being important dawn upon its subjects, let alone making available the facilities that enable every child to get an education.

The focus of successive governments for many years has remained on projects that are visible to a wider audience. Carpeting of roads, construction of overhead bridges, metro bus services; tangible proofs of work done. Such projects have been portrayed as evidences of the country’s progress. And the purported progress is manifest in the WEF index.

The report highlighted that the human capital potential of Pakistan was “held back by insufficient educational enrolment rates and poor-quality primary schools”. In the National Plan of Action 2013-2016, it was proposed that public spending on education would be taken up to 4% of the GDP. Like other goals, this was missed as well and Pakistan’s current public spending on education is estimated at 2.6% of GDP. Norway spends 7.4% of its GDP on education, and even Yemen, the lowest ranked in the index, spends 5.1% of GDP on education.

So the next time you hear someone saying Pakistan is on way to becoming an economic giant, remind them of the pitiable state your fellow countrymen are in with respect to human development.

There is still time before the youth bulge we like to brag about turns into a cancerous tumour. If only someone does something about it.