A young work force could be a major driver for economies, except that 60 percent of young people around the world are currently unemployed.
The world is the youngest it has ever been, according to a new report released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), as 1.8 billion people are between the ages of 10 and 24 – almost a quarter of the world’s total population of seven billion. The report highlights hope for the future, but also some severe realities of the youth situation today.
According to the report, entitled The Power of 1.8 Billion, the world’s youth population is growing the fastest in poorest nations. Nine out of 10 of the world’s youth live in less developed countries.
This number has the potential to contribute to the rapid economic growth and stability of such nations, as the working population rises more and people are able to contribute to the economy and there are fewer dependents, says the report. Countries just need to invest in the right policies and programs to help encourage this youth movement, which would include namely investments in education, healthcare and job development.
“Today’s record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future,” says UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehim. “Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life,” he adds.
However, the U.N. report also highlight some stark realities, particularly because a large portion of youth around the world – particularly, but not limited to, developing countries – do not have access to education, health care or good governance.
The first impediment to growth is the fact that there is a severe lack of jobs for youth. According to the report, over 60 percent of the youth population are unemployed, not in school, or have only irregular employment – in both developing and developed nations.
In both cases, young men are more likely than young women to find stable employment or jobs in the formal economy, which also points to an ongoing lack of education on gender equality.
This is also evident in the fact that over half of all sexual assaults are committed against girls under 16 years old. One in three girls in developing nations is also married before the age of 18, which diminishes her education potentials and future prospects, according to the UNFPA.
“Gender norms in many societies perpetuate the image of boys and young men as violent and risk takers, while categorizing girls and young women as submissive in their sexual relationships,” reads the report.
Today, millions of adolescents and young people also lack access to sexual and reproductive health services, making adolescents at large risk of contracting HIV. One in seven new HIV infections occur during adolescence, while currently some two million 10 to 19-year-olds are living with HIV.
Despite these complications, and impediments to proper social support, the U.N. body continues to look toward the youth population optimistically, calling them “indispensable partners in development.”
The number of people between the ages of 10 and 24 is expected to reach two billion by 2050. Countries will thrive economically if they chose to invest in youth development, and ensure that they have access to opportunities, proper healthcare, relevant education, employment options, and that their rights are protected, says the report.