Investing in Youth Benefits Everyone

Nov 20th, 2014 | By | Category: Youth Rights

By Suzanne York,

How does the old adage go?  Youth is wasted on the young, right?

It is only wasted if the world chooses to not support and invest in young people.  Today, there are more youth than ever before in the history of humankind.  The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), in its just released report The State of World Population 2014 – The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future, estimates, there are 1.8 billion people worldwide between the ages of 10 to 24.  That is a quarter of the world’s current population.

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How they fare in the world will be determined by how their “elders” choose, or don’t choose, to support them in a global society of many obstacles.

Nine out of 10 of the world’s 1.8 billion youth live in less developed countries, where young people face tremendous challenges to receiving and adequate education, access to health, and finding jobs.

Below are some figures from the UNFPA report:

  • 57 million young people are out of school;
  • 1 in 3 girls in developing countries is married before the age of 18, threatening her health, education and future prospects;
  • More than 1 in 3 women, including those who are young, suffer violence from an intimate partner;
  • 1 in 7 new HIV infections occurs among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years;
  • Globally, 73.4 million youth between the ages of 15 to 24 are unemployed.

Taking a Closer Look

In Pakistan, with a total population of over 180 million, UNFPA Representative Anne Keling said that almost 63 percent of Pakistan’s population was under 23 years of age and needed to be prepared to deal with the issues of education, employment and health.  It is expected to be the fifth most populous country in the world by 2050.

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Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain has called  for developing a national consensus on the issue of population growth to ensure that the country’s population rises to its full potential in terms of its contribution to society, while keeping in mind finite resources.

Earlier this week President Hussain outlined a number of steps to deal with population growth, such as creating national guidelines, revamping educational and health systems, and poverty eradication, all of which will benefit youth.

Whether it is Pakistan or countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that also have a large youth population, and for young people everywhere, governments and civil society have an obligation to help them succeed.

According to the UNFPA report, countries that don’t address the needs of young people are likely to see higher fertility rates and poorly skilled work forces.”  It also notes that “Investments in health, including sexual and reproductive health, are also central. When young people can make a healthy transition from adolescence into adulthood, options expand for the future.”

Building a Brighter Future

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, executive director of UNFPA said “How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people and enable them to enjoy their rights will define our common future.”

That is so true.  Dr. Osotimehin gets it, and he noted that “A world in which a quarter of humanity is without full enjoyment of their rights is a world without the basic building blocks for change and progress.”

The world can either choose to invest in the nearly two billion citizens between the critical ages of 10 to 24 years, or it can just move blindly ahead, and see how many can help themselves in a world of immense challenges.  The choice is obvious.  Investing in youth (and all people) is the smart choice.


Suzanne York is a senior writer with the Institute for Population Studies.

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