Positioning young people in the world

Kampuan women carrying their infants near Bong Long (UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran)

Today, there are nearly 1.2 billion people around the world aged 15 to 24, who may be considered key actors in areas of economic growth, political force and social transformation. But, there is a “before” and “after” for the population in relation to the world economic crisis, which has had negative effects on incomes, government finances, labour markets, health and access to education for young people.

The Expert Group Meeting on Adolescents, Youth and Development was held on 21-22 July and organized by the Population Division of DESA.The meeting gathered a number of experts who discussed current research focusing on the situation of young people in different regions of the world. Two main themes of the meeting were: demographic dynamics of adolescents and youth in socio-economic development.

Regarding youth in Eastern Asia, Minja Kim Choe of the East-West Center, highlighted changes in the views held by young people in Japan. Young people are today more likely than those in previous generations to think that women can have full and satisfying lives without marrying; that it is all right for unmarried women to have sex or for women to have children without marrying, although fertility outside marriage in Japan is still very low.

She also pointed out that in several countries in Eastern Asia the postponement of marriage and the extension of education prolonged the period of youth dependence.

Jorge Rodriguez of the Population Division of ECLAC reviewed the situation of youth in Latin America. He noted that Latin America has the second highest adolescent fertility rate in the world after Africa, although total fertility in the continent has declined markedly. Consequently, the number of births to adolescents account for a large proportion of all births.

Steven Kapsos of the International Labour Organization discussed the reasons for the vulnerability of young people to unemployment and underemployment. He observed that educational deficiencies, skills that don’t match job requirements, lack of work experience and professional contacts or networks, greater likelihood of being in precarious employment contracts and barriers to entrepreneurship are all at the root of poor labour outcomes for young people.

Regarding ways of addressing those problems, Mr. Kapsos stressed the importance of addressing skill mismatches that facilitate access to vocational training: entrepreneurship programmes, training in soft and life skills and linking employers with educational institutions.

The meeting was held to commemorate the International Year of Youth and to prepare for the forthcoming 45th session of the Commission on Population and Development that will focus on the theme “Adolescents and Youth” and as part of the actions following up on the recommendations of the International Conference on Population and Development.

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