Definition of Youth

While Eritrea does not have a youth policy, the 2012 economic outlook report by African Economic Outlook describes youth as being between the ages of 15-24.


Marriageable Age

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

  • No data for marriage with parental consent. Women aged 16-18 who are pregnant or have given birth to a child at the age of 16 may be granted dispensation to marry without parental consent. Homosexual acts illegal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Children between the ages of 12 and 15 are not subject to the ordinary penalties applicable to adults, nor shall they be kept in custody with adult offenders. Source:  UN Child Rights Periodic Report

Majority Age


Voting Age


Elections were expected to take place in 2001 but have been postponed indefinitely.
Source:  Inter-Parliamentary Union

Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 94.55% Male (15-24) %
  • 91.91% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 28.37%Male %
  • 23.17% 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) %
  • 7.80% Male (13-15) %
  • 4.60% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Eritrea concentrates on employment policies. The lack of an overall youth policy has been criticised.

Eritrea has no youth policy. According to Rahel Weldeab (2010), the lack of youth policy “means that government ministries and offices are not obliged by policy to dedicate their work specifically to benefit the youth.”   The constitution of Eritrea mandates that all citizens must complete national service. As described by Weldeab (2010), this typically starts after the completion of high school or college, meaning that Eritrean society is highly dependent on its youth for its national defense and reconstruction. Youth are unable to possess full rights as citizens (ex. voting) until the completion of this service. According to an article by Antje Diekhans in July 2013, the military portion of this service is often for an indefinite amount of time.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
There is no governmental authority that is responsible for youth. As described by Weldeab (2010), government agencies that deliver programmes to youth often so do without a specific youth strategy in mind. In some limited cases, government bodies such as the Ministry of Health have sought the input and assistance of youth in the design of their programmes. In one instance, the Ministry partnered with the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) because of their success with grassroots HIV/AIDS awareness and condom use campaigns.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) is a national youth organisation with the mission to “cultivate and produce capable youth by promoting and strengthening Eritrean youth in all aspects of national, regional and international development processes”.   Its main functions are: (1) Advocacy and Lobbying, ensuring youth needs and issues are raised with decision-makers, and; (2) Service Provision, temporarily providing services to youth that are in scarce supply, such as establishing and running youth health centres around the country.

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?

No documentation could be found online regarding youth spending in Eritrea.

According to the World Bank, Eritrea spent 2.13% of its GDP on education in 2006, but does not calculate what this translates to in terms of percentage of government expenditure.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

From Engaging Youth in Decision-Making: A Path toward Active Youth Citizenship in Eritrea (2010):  
Young people in Eritrea played an immense role in the armed struggle and social changes that accompanied it. As a result of these contributions and efforts, a foundation for youth participation was developed even before independence. Still, despite their efforts and past involvement in public life, today Eritrean youth struggle to influence policymakers and to have opportunities to participate in decision-making.
Upon gaining independence, the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) changed its program to take into consideration the post-independence challenges of organizing youth to bring about change in the country. Although active participation was a principle adopted in Eritrea from the beginning, NUEYS has faced many challenges in communicating the concerns of the youth to policymakers. Effective participation of young people in the policymaking processes and in the implementation of national development programs has only been possible through the active citizenship of youth and the leadership skills they have developed over the years [...]
Having played a major role in achieving independence for Eritrea, NUEYS took a leading role in mobilizing youth and giving them proper leadership training. At the same time, NUEYS had to build up its reputation in the country almost from scratch due to many post-independence challenges (i.e., reconstruction, nation building) and the government was not always there to provide support. In fact, there were times when a government ministry would simply close the door on the Union, refusing to include youth in the designing of youth-related programs, let alone in any policymaking process.
Through unremitting effort, fundraising, and designing its own programs, NUEYS was gradually able to build up its prestige to a point where some government ministries realized that their programs would fail if they didn’t include NUEYS. For instance, having developed its own health campaign, NUEYS was able to mobilize youth as peer educators raising HIV/AIDS awareness and promoting condom usage. This health program reached the grassroots level and was able to create many youth leaders. Understanding the effectiveness of the strategies used by NUEYS to mobilize young people, the Ministry of Health soon realized that including the Union as a vital stakeholder in its national HIV/AIDS program was the most efficient and effective way to spread HIV/AIDS awareness among youth. Accordingly, NUEYS became a member of the National HIV/AIDS and TB Control Division (NATCoD). NUEYS not only gained the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process on HIV/AIDS programs but was also able to gain government funds to establish youth health centers around the country.
  From African Economic Outlook. Eritrea (2012):  
Eritrea has a disproportionately young population and its mobilisation on the labour market is of great concern to the government. In 2009, only about half the population between the ages of 15-24, was employed. The government’s emphasis on higher education also implies that many of the country’s youth are increasingly well educated, but have no access to jobs.
Upon finishing high school, college or vocational training, young people are conscripted into national service. Created in 1994, up to 40 000 youth are called into national service annually for an indeterminate period that could last as long as ten years. In rural areas young people have little access to modern opportunities, and many engage in subsistence activities. The government needs to increase its commitment to socioeconomic policies and programmes aimed at absorbing youth into the labour market as a critical factor for lifting national standards of living. In order to be able to do so, it must first enhance its data collection on youth and labour more broadly in order to be able to make informed policy decisions.