November 18th, 2014 19:16 EST
UN: World`s Adolescents Can Help Economies Soar
The 1.8 billion adolescents worldwide " more than ever before in human history " can help to propel their countries` economies, provided that Governments invest in education, health care and jobs for them, a new report released today by the United Nations shows.
The State of World Population 2014, produced by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), finds that the potential economic gains to countries with large populations of youth 10 to 24 years old would be realized through a demographic dividend, " which can occur when a county`s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent and younger.
To maximize the dividend, however, countries must ensure that their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income-earning possibilities. Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future, " said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin in a press release today.
But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life, " he added.
The report, The power of 1.8 billion: adolescents, youth and the transformation of the future, found that in the 1950s and 1960s, several East Asian economies invested heavily in young people`s capabilities and in expanding their access to voluntary family planning, enabling individuals to start families later and have fewer children.
According to the report, the result of such actions was unprecedented economic growth. The Republic of Korea, for example, saw its per-capita gross domestic product grow about 2,200 per cent between 1950 and 2008.
Today, demographic shifts taking place in about 60 countries are opening a window for a demographic dividend, UNFPA said.
For instance, if sub-Saharan African countries repeated the East Asian experience by making the right investments in young people, enabling them to participate in decisions that affect their lives and adopting policies to bolster economic growth, the region as a whole could realize a demographic dividend amounting to as much as $500 billion a year, for 30 years.
A demographic dividend of this magnitude has the potential to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and raise living standards and catapult economies forward, the report states.
Critical youth investments needed to reap a demographic dividend are those that protect rights, including reproductive rights, improve health, including sexual and reproductive health, and provide skills and knowledge to build young people`s capabilities and agency. These investments can also accelerate fertility declines, which can in turn accelerate the demographic transition, according to the report.
The report also found that 9 out of 10 of the world`s young people today live in less developed countries. Because of lagging social services, these countries face greater obstacles to leveraging the advantages that can result from engaging a youthful, productive workforce.
It is too easy to talk about the demographic dividend in terms of money, savings and economic growth, which have so far excluded many, " Mr. Osotimehin said. The demographic dividend must be harnessed to achieve inclusive growth and offer opportunities and well-being for all.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia