Number of youth in Yemen will peak in 20 years [Archives:2007/1086/Local News]

September 17 2007

Nadia Al-Sakkaf
SANA'A, Sept. 16 ) The number of youth in most developing countries has peaked or will do so in the next 10 years. However, because of the high population growth rate, the number of youth in Yemen among a few other countries will peak in the next 20 years. This means in another twenty years there will be a much higher need for education and employment opportunities than ever in the history of this country. Yemen needs to invest in youth today in order to be able to meet the challenges in the coming two decades.

According to the report, these large numbers can also be an opportunity. The fertility transition means that many developing countries are in, or will soon enter, a phase when they can expect to see a larger share of people of working age. This expansion of a workforce that has fewer children and elderly to support provides a window of opportunity to spend on other things, such as building human capital.

More than one in four people are in search of jobs in Middle East and North Africa region. Average unemployment rates are highest among both youth and adults in MENA, when compared to all other developing regions. The share of young people among the region's unemployed is higher than 50 percent in most countries.

Unless developing countries invest in human capital they will not be able to take advantage of the citizens during their most productive age. Youth political participation and involvement in social organizations is also essential for fostering young people's civic life in their own communities and also vital for good governance.

A number of unemployed youth organizations have been formed in Yemen recently in order to demand better living conditions and more opportunities. Their engagement in riots and protests which lead to violent clashes recently prove their need to be embraced in a productive nurturing system to utilize their skills and energy. According to the report, without opportunities for productive civic engagement, young people's frustrations may boil over into economic and social tensions, creating long-simmering disputes. For example, the ongoing ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka between Sinhalese and Tamils was initially caused by the frustration of Tamil students shut out of university places and denied other avenues for civic involvement.

The poor quality of basic education severely limits opportunities for young people. This was one of the many conclusions in the latest World Bank World Development Report. Investing in developing youth is the key to progress, especially in young developing countries, such as Yemen, where at least 50 percent of the population is under 15 years old. Despite the fact that enrollment rates and number of schools are increasing, problems such as illiteracy, unemployment, and unskilled labor persist in Yemen. The WDR explains the reason behind this is poor quality of education. It is not just about reading and writing, youth who have completed basic education are unprepared to cope with the practicalities of daily life. Most of today's youth lack skills to navigate adolescence and young adulthood safely, or possess advantageous vocational training to help them compete in the workforce.

The bright side of this is that these youth present a huge opportunity to accelerate growth and reduce poverty. Because labor is the main asset of the poor, making it more productive is the best way to reduce poverty. This requires enhancing the opportunities to earn money and developing the human capital to take advantage of those opportunities.

With 1.3 billion young people now living in the developing world-the largest-ever youth group in history-the report says there has never been a better time to invest in youth because they are healthier and better educated than previous generations, and they will join the workforce with fewer dependents because of changing demographics. However, failure to seize this opportunity to train them more effectively for the workplace, and to be active citizens, could lead to widespread disillusionment and social tensions.

“Such large numbers of young people living in developing countries present great opportunities