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Youth population — challenges, opportunities and sustainability
12 August is International Youth Day. The world’s youth population has reached 1.2 billion and is projected to increase by seven percent to 1.3 billion by 2030. Never before have there been so many people on the planet between the ages of 15 and 24.
The vast majority of the global youth population exists in the developing countries in Asia and Africa. Asian countries constitute more than 60 per cent of the youth population, and the continent will be home to more youth than any other region until around 2080.
Countries with a high youth population have great potential for economic and social development through effective utilisation of the ‘demographic dividend’.
Strategic investments in education, health, family planning and job creation, to cater for the growing needs and aspirations of youth, will decide our common future.
The theme for International Youth Day 2016 is ‘Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production’ — which is in line with the UN’s2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
It is important to realise that the only way to achieve sustainable development is through investments in human capital, particularly amongst youth.
The significant rise in the youth population has put an enormous pressure on public and natural resources. Considering that the ‘demographic momentum’ will lead to an increase in the youth population, the only way we can assure sustainable development and eradication of poverty is through education and investments in health, especially sexual and reproductive health.
To counter the unsustainable growth in population, provision of easily-accessible family planning services is critical. This is especially crucial for the youth population in developing countries, who are faced with the challenges of education and employment, and for whom the absence of effective family planning services often leads to teenage pregnancy. This, in turn, increases dependency, and deprives young people of essential education and health services.
This situation is reflective of the current scenario in many developing and poor countries in Asia and Africa, wherein the countries are not able to harness the potential of the demographic dividend.
A youth of 15 today will be an adult in 2030, the target year for the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thus, the future of sustainable development ought to occur with youth at the centre of all decisions.
Ensuring healthy lives, promotion of human rights, education, equality, jobs and livelihoods for young people must take precedence in defining our sustainable future. The existing challenges for young people in developing countries must be overcome by providing effective sexual and reproductive health and rights.
Only an informed and educated youth population will be able to realise the importance of population stabilisation and, in doing so, ensure a sustainable future.
In this endeavour, Population Matters strongly believes in, and promotes the cause of, universal access to family planning services to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.