Definition of Youth

The National Youth Survey, held in 2009, targeted youth aged 10-30 years. The results of this survey will inform the development of a draft Iraqi national youth strategy.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • --
  • Female
  • 18
  • 15
  • --

  • As reported by Huffington Post in March 2014, a draft law opens the door for girls as young as nine to marry. Unclear legislation for homosexual acts. Reports exist of “self-proclaimed Sharia judges” sentencing people to death for homosexual acts. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Penal Code of Iraq, Amended

Majority Age



Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 82.42% Male (15-24) %
  • 80.61% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 49.12%Male %
  • 39.63% 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) %
  • 17.70% Male (13-15) %
  • 15.20% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Iraq is developing a national youth strategy, and conducted a youth survey to inform the effort.

In March 2013, reported on the drafting of Iraq’s first national youth strategy, which at the time was awaiting approval by the government. The Ministry of Youth and Sports began its development 2009, led by a central committee in collaboration with other non-governmental and international bodies, such as UNFPA-Iraq. A National Youth Survey was held in 2009 to inform the strategy, which covers the years 2014-2020. According to a September 2013 press release from United Nations Iraq, the forthcoming strategy covers four key topics:

  • Establishing well-educated, productive youth;
  • Addressing health, social and psychological needs of young people;
  • Promotion of rights and national identity;
  • Strengthening youth participation and engagement in the community.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Youth and Sports is the chief author of the forthcoming national youth strategy. In its development, the ministry conducted the 2009 National Youth Survey in conjunction with other ministries (such as the Ministry of Planning), international bodies (including UNFPA-Iraq) and the Kurdistan Ministry of Sports and Youth. Its youth activities include a youth parliament, organizing youth culture and arts events, publishing a youth magazine, as well as running youth centres and sports clubs across the country.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
Iraq has no national level representation structures for youth. An alternate structure is the Iraqi Youth Parliament, which as described in an overview of youth in the Arab region (2010), is comprised of 275 members, aiming:   to activate youth participation in the political, cultural and social fields, and to provide channels of communication for young Iraqis [...] to contribute in making the decisions that affect them.   It is restricted to youth aged 18 and 35, as reported by Wadi – the UN-NGO partner – and as such is not representative of youth as a whole.

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 a 2014 report by the UN-Iraq Joint Analysis Unit, the Ministry of Youth and Sports was allocated a budget of IQD 876.0 billion (USD 752.6 million) in 2011. However, it is unclear how much is allocated specifically for youth. More recent budget figures for the ministry could not be located. The World Bank does not calculate spending on education as a percentage of government expenditure or GDP for Iraq from 2000.
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 Analytical Report of the National Youth Strategy: Towards a National Strategy for Iraqi Youth (Executive Summary) (2011):  
The sample of the survey comprised some 6,492 completed household interviews distributed along all Iraqi governorates. This resulted in completed interviews for some 15,087 persons in the age group 10-30 years. Data collection took place during the period from 25/3-13/4/2009. The main objective of NYS is to collect quantitative information on the knowledge, perceptions and practices of adolescents and youth 10-30 years. NYS is a vital step especially after the political and social changes that Iraq is witnessing since 2003. NYS aimed to create a comprehensive database comprising educational, practical, health, social and psychological characteristics including disabilities. NYS included also statistics on youth and ICT; and it shed lights on youth participation, civil rights, citizenship and the security situation.
The results of the survey showed the higher rate of married females in comparison with their male counterparts; and that most of the youth do live in independent housing units mostly owned by their households. The percentage of educational enrolment is high among both genders, although it is a bit higher for males than females. The percentage of educational dropout among youth aged 15-24 years is higher compared to their counterparts in the age group 10-14. The desire of not to continue education was the main reason behind dropout. The data revealed that about half youth own mobile phones, although the percentage is higher among males compared with females. The results also revealed that less than a quarter of youth were employed at the survey time, and this figure is doubled among the youth aged 25-30 years. The percentage among males reaches around five times of the corresponding females. Some 13% of the employed youth are not satisfied with their jobs. [...]
Iraqi youth are similar to their counterparts in the Arab region in terms of perceptions, behavior and aspirations; although there are some differences in their knowledge and awareness due to the socioeconomic and political environment surrounded them which was characterized by wars, crises and conflicts. The analysis confirms that what has been indicated by the report of the Secretary General of the United Nations on the follow-up to World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond (2007) applies to the situation of young people in Iraq: "It is though that the youth present have many features and benefits, they face economic environment and complex social and rapid development in the context of globalization which is imposing restrictions interfere with the national policies, at the time did not have when all countries the means to manage their integration into the global economy and provide social and economic opportunities to their citizens. Youth are exposed to vulnerability as a result of their lack of knowledge and skills necessary to adapt to a new economic and social environment.
  From Regional Overview: Youth in the Arab Region (2010):  
Out of 22 countries in the region, only 9 have either developed youth policies or are in the process of formulating them. Nevertheless, recent unrest in the region has presented a compelling rationale for governments to bring youth issues firmly into the focus of the national agenda. [...]
Youth are almost entirely excluded from participation within the parliaments of more than half of the Arab countries, reaching a low of 7% in the parliaments of Bahrain and Lebanon. Furthermore, only 4 countries (Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Yemen) have established specialized youth-related legislative committees. The majority of countries of the region tends to address youth issues by proxy, through committees on sport, culture or family affairs.
Perhaps not surprisingly then, the potentials and innovative ideas of young Arab men and women are often under-employed by duty bearers throughout the region. Youth participation in boards of directors, for example, is limited and is often based solely upon appointment and selection. Moreover, they tend to participate in activities that are not commensurate with their experience and skills. And, as a result, they often experience feelings of frustration and social exclusion, which may help to explain recent attempts by Arab youth to induce change. [...]
Despite growing interest in youth, most Arab countries lack a strategic vision for youth development. The region continues to address youth through unsustainable sectoral programmes and projects, rather than by formulating national youth policies that would provide nationally-agreed-upon frameworks and realistic guidelines from which actions can be developed to enhance meaningful youth participation and development.
Among the 14 ESCWA countries, 5 countries have formulated national youth policies (Jordan, Bahrain, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen), another 5 countries are in the process of formulating such policies (UAE, Syria, Iraq, Qatar, Lebanon) and the rest of the countries (Sudan, Oman, Kuwait, KSA) only tackle youth issues through their sectoral and national development plans. An absence of detailed statistical data and research on youth, as well as inadequate national capacities for formulating evidence and knowledge-based youth policies, are some of the challenges being faced at present.