18 December 2007
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




Societies should nurture and protect opportunities for youth to engage in development processes or risk losing the innovativeness, energy and dynamism of young people, Johan Schölvink, Director of the Division of Social Policy and Development in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said today at the launch of the 2007 World Youth Report.

“Policies are needed to build youth potential and open doors for their participation in society, particularly in the areas of employment, civic engagement, political participation and volunteerism,” he said at a Headquarters press conference to launch the Report, titled Young People’s Transition to Adulthood: Progress and Challenges.  “Young people need to be seen and heard as active players on the development stage.”

He said the report argued that young people were determined to engage in the social, political and economic fabric of society and had much to contribute to the global debate on major development and policy issues.  That was evident in their efforts to constantly improve their education, upgrade their skills and find employment through their use of information and communications technology and their participation in social action groups and other volunteer activities.

On the positive side, the Report emphasized that much progress had been made by Governments, and especially by young people, to promote the well-being of youth and develop their capacities, he said.  All regions had made impressive achievements in raising school enrolment and an increasing number of girls were in school.  But, at a time when globalization offered many opportunities around the world, obstacles remained for youth to be able to access its benefits.  Major constraints to youth development were prevalent in all regions, with a lack of employment opportunities in the formal sector being the biggest stumbling block.  That reality was related to low-quality education that failed to prepare them for the needs of the job market.

For instance, the educational gains that girls had made were not translated into increased employment opportunities, he said, pointing out that even young people who had achieved high levels of education were finding it difficult to secure and retain jobs in the formal economy.  They were thus forced to find work in the informal sector, which offered no benefits or job security.  As a result, many opted for internal or international migration as a coping mechanism.

Additionally, health, education and employment hurdles had interfered with their smooth transition to adulthood, but the nature of those challenges varied regionally, he said.  To rise to the challenges, young people needed support.  “In all regions, failure to provide adequate investment to support youth development in these areas can be detrimental to the mind, body and spirit of a young person,” he cautioned.

The findings were part of the third in a series of reports, he said, adding that the 2007 edition adopted a regional approach, drawing attention to the unique challenges to youth development in Asia, Latin American, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, small island developing States, economies in transition and developing-market economies.

Asked whether or not family planning was more available for youth, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, Patience Stephens, Focal Point on Youth in the Division of Social Policy and Development, said that, while the Report did not specifically address family planning, evidence from recent regional demographic and health surveys showed a change in young people’s use of contraception.  Data also showed a major transition towards lower family sizes.  However, there was room for change and greater knowledge, especially regarding young women and HIV prevention.

Responding to a question about the worsening situation for youth in Latin America, she pointed out that it reflected a global trend, adding that finding jobs and earning decent wages, rather than attaining education, was the major “roadblock”.  That was a reflection of what was happening worldwide as a consequence of globalization and the contraction of labour markets.  The trend’s impact was felt more severely in Latin America, partly because its proximity to North America had triggered migration out of the region.

Throughout the Report, she said, it was very clear that what was happening with youth and unemployment was systematic and related to a difficulty in school-to-work transition in both developing and developed countries.  There was a “mismatch” between school knowledge and the skills required by the labour market.  In the context of globalization, the required skills were changing as quickly as the demands of the labour market.

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For information media • not an official record