Definition of Youth

The national youth policy of Barbados defines youth as between 15-29 years of age, in line with the agreed definition by the Commonwealth Youth Programme.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • XX
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • XX

  • Homosexual acts illegal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  UN Human Rights Committee

Majority Age


Source: Minors Act (1985)

Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 83.78%Male %
  • 96.32% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • 34.50% Male (13-15) %
  • 23.20% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The national youth policy of Barbados was adopted in late 2011. A draft had been presented earlier that year.

The national youth policy identifies 10 areas of priority: Employment; Education; The Family; Core Values; Gangs; Housing; Lifestyle Diseases; Political Participation and The Environment. As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Barbados is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015. It lists 13 action points for member nations, including youth empowerment, youth governance, participation, gender equality, education, health and ICT. The National Strategic Plan of Barbados, 2005-2025 recognises youth as its most precious asset” with Objective 1.4 of Goal 3 devoted to the development of youth focusing on ICT, youth crime, service provision, education, health and minorities.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth coordinates all activities on youth development and aims to: “build a stable and cohesive society, by empowering youth, building strong family, relationships, defining culture as a way of life and increasing participation and excellence in sports.” It is supported through a range of mechanisms including the Department for Youth Affairs, Barbados Youth Service, Youth Development Council, National Youth Forum and Youth Parliament. The Inter-Ministerial Committee for Youth Development ensures coordination of youth policy across government.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The Barbados Youth Development Council (BYDC) is a national umbrella organisation consisting of individual and youth groups. The BYDC is a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council. Young people are represented regionally through the CARICOM Youth Ambassador programme. An elected National Youth Parliament exists, and a National Youth Forum was launched in 2010 to provide a space for youth participation in the implementation and review of the national youth policy. The national youth policy (2011) calls for the establishment of a national youth council.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
According to the Barbados Estimates 2013-2014, the total estimated budget for non-statutory expenditure of the Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth for 2013/2014 was BBD 42.2 million (USD 21.1 million), of which the estimated budget for Youth Affairs and Sport was BBD 12.6 million (USD 6.3 million). However, it is unclear what proportion of this amount is specifically for youth. According to the World Bank, Barbados spent 13.51% of its government expenditure and 7.52% of its GDP on education provision in 2010.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank

Additional Background

The national youth policy of Barbados, challenges the negative perception on youth:

The apparent preoccupation with deviant youth and the mistakes that a minority of young men and women make during the transition from childhood to adulthood, has cast a long shadow over youth development in the region. Hence several writers have reached conclusions about young people that detract from an understanding of “youth” as an age of idealism, an age of experiment, and an age of discovery. The unwritten policy throughout the Caribbean has therefore been to contain and control youth, “for their own good”. In this way, Caribbean societies have succeeded in reproducing themselves with all the punitive and enslaving historical baggage for which they are renowned.

 The premise behind this policy document is that the majority of Barbadian youth are decent hard-working people striving to live up to the expectations of significant others in their lives. When they were consulted and fully engaged during 2010, the mood shifted from one of “hopelessness and despair” to optimism and a willingness to take responsibility for their own future.

 The authors of the national youth policy are hopeful of a new youth movement arising:

One anticipated outcome from the implementation of the National Youth Policy is the motivation and mobilisation of large numbers of idealistic young people who believe that Barbados can do better. This movement will give young people a voice and will channel their creative energy into programmes and projects to meet both the perennial needs of youth and the new challenges they face in the first quarter of the 21st century.