(May 2006) More young people ages 15-24 now live in Pakistan than at any other time in the country’s history—an estimated 36 million in 2004. But until recently, little was known about the details of their lives. Population Council, an international, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that conducts biomedical, social science, and public health research, sought to fill this knowledge gap by undertaking in 2001 and 2002 a nationally representative survey of Pakistani youth.

Population Council has now published four policy briefs based on data from the survey, covering areas from reproductive health to poverty, gender differences in the transition to adulthood, and the influence of parents on their children’s abilities to make decisions. Assisted by Nancy Yinger, PRB’s Director of International Programs, authors of these briefs analyze some of the most crucial issues facing Pakistan’s youth and present clear and evidence-based conclusions and recommendations:

  • Munawar Sultana: Culture of Silence: A Brief on Reproductive Health of Adolescents and Youth in Pakistan (PDF: 3.47 MB)

This brief presents the experience of married and unmarried young people from different social strata and residence regarding their own attitudes and expectations about reproductive health. While the average age at marriage is rising in Pakistan, a substantial proportion of girls still marry during their teens, and only 40 percent of rural Pakistani young women seek health care during their first pregnancy. Contraceptive use is also low among married young men and women, although more than one-half of married women intend to use some form of contraception in the future.

  • Azeema Faizunnisa: The Poverty Trap: Leveling the Playing Field for Young People (PDF: 3.24 MB)

This brief discusses the impact of family-level poverty on the educational attainment, economic activity, and marriage patterns of Pakistani youth. Poverty has meant that 36 percent of this group has never attended school, while nearly 50 percent of boys in the lowest economic quartile start working before age 15. Youth in the poorest quartile also marry earlier and want more children than those in the richest quartile.

  • Munawar Sultana: Two Worlds Under the Same Roof: A Brief on Gender Difference in Transitions to Adulthood (PDF: 3.16MB)

There is a persistent asymmetry between young men and women’s experience of growing up in Pakistan, especially in rural areas. Less than one-half of all young females ages 15-24 have ever enrolled in school—and of those who are enrolled, females are more likely than males to drop out at an earlier grade. Girls also spend far more time doing household chores; have less autonomy to make decisions, especially about marriage; and have far less mobility outside the home than do boys. These disparities mean that girls often face considerable disadvantages in reaching their full potential.

  • Minhaj ul Haque: Discrimination Starts at Home: A Brief on Parents’ Aspirations for Adolescents and Youth in Pakistan (PDF: 3.54MB)

Parents are the unchallenged stakeholders in the lives of young people in Pakistan. They play a critical role in socializing their children and passing on essential information and life skills. The low literacy rates of many Pakistani parents as well as attitudes toward their children’s schooling, eventual livelihood, age for marriage, mobility, and decisionmaking profoundly influence their children. Important areas of intervention include encouraging parents to allow their children to make decisions and working to eliminate discrimination against girls in the home.

For More Information

Population Council, Adolescents and Youth in Pakistan 2001–02: A Nationally Representative Survey (Islamabad and New York: Population Council, 2003), accessed online at www.popcouncil.org, on May 10, 2006.