Definition of Youth

The national youth policy (2003) of Jamaica defines youth as those between the ages of 15-24, “who [have] passed through the dependent stage of childhood, in the semi-independence of adolescence or who will soon acquire the maturity of adulthood.”


Marriageable Age

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

  • Male homosexual acts legal. Female homosexual acts legal, however no specific legislation for same-sex marriage. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Child Care and Protection Act of Jamaica

Majority Age


Voting Age


Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 94.21% Male (15-24) %
  • 98.86% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 72.43%Male %
  • 76.14% 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) %
  • 31.30% Male (13-15) %
  • 24.60% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
The national youth policy of Jamaica was adopted in 2003 and is undergoing revision.

The vision of the national youth policy (2003) is of:

...Jamaican youth realising [their] full potential, through access to opportunities, to develop, participate and contribute as responsible citizens, to a peaceful, prosperous and caring society.
The policy focuses on six areas: Living Environments; Education and Training; Employment and Entrepreneurship; Health; Participation and Empowerment; Care and Protection. According to a press release on 12 January 2012, the youth policy is currently being revised and will focus on greater youth participation and employment opportunities. However, there is no detail of developments since 2012. As a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, Jamaica is a signatory of The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) 2006-2015.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The National Centre for Youth Development, the youth division within the Ministry of Youth & Culture, is “responsible for facilitating the co-ordination and integration of programmes, service and activities geared towards youth development, and recommending and designing programmes to enhance and propel youth development.” Established in 2000 during the development of the national youth policy (2003), its main programmes include Youth Information Centres, youth services, career development and supporting youth participation structures.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Youth Council of Jamaica (NYCJ) is an umbrella organisation representing local youth clubs that provides “assistance in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of government policy regarding youth.” The Youth Ambassadors Programme is made up of 22 young people acting as national and international ambassadors. They focus on thematic issues, such as disability, gender and education, and international forums. The NYCJ is a member of the Commonwealth Youth Council and the Youth Ambassadors are part of the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors programme.

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?
JMD 87 million
USD 795,729
According to the 2013-2014 Jamaica budget, the National Centre for Youth Development was allocated JMD 87 million (USD 795,729). “Youth Development Services” in total received JMD 519 million (USD 4.75 million). According to the World Bank, Jamaica spent 11.48% of its government expenditure and 6.35% 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
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

The Jamaican Children: Twenty Years after the Convention on the Rights of the Child (2009) report provides a useful socio-economic context:
The Jamaican population continues to be very young: about 33% of the population are children and another 11.5% are adolescents and youth of 18-24 years. In 2008, the country’s population grew at a rate of 0.4% while the fertility rate was 2.38; both are marginally lower than the previous year. While 52% (stable over the last five years) of the population live in urban areas, more of the children live in rural areas.
The rate of migration continues to be high with over 17,500 migrants in 2008 and an average of 16,833 annually since 2006. In other words, over six Jamaicans migrate each year for every 1,000 persons in the population – this is one of the highest rates in the world.1 Migration contributes to the increased susceptibility of households to economic changes in other countries (due to reliance on remittances) and increased risks to child rights associated with lack of parental support.
The 2012 Situation Assessment of Youth in Jamaica provides a useful insight into the key challenges faces young people:
The macroeconomic context: in a context of low growth and inequity, “youth are particularly affected by the attending structural constraints”. The data shows low labour force participation and high levels of unemployment, with attending social consequences.
Poverty, urban and rural: Poverty is often transmitted across generations, compromising the life chances of children to the elderly. However, there is concern that youth who consider themselves to be excluded from national production plans and who are frustrated by poverty may opt to find alternate - including underground - avenues to survive, with serious social and economic consequences.
Education: Inequalities in education provision stunt youth who are disadvantaged by the system, also with considerable social and economic spin off effects.
Health and HIV AIDS: The data shows that within Jamaica’s socio-cultural context, (1) “adolescents suffer some of the most significant costs of the high rate of crime and violence that now seems endemic in Jamaica; (2) an increasing number of adolescents are referred to Child Guidance Clinics for mental health and behavioral problems; (3) adolescents are highly vulnerable to factors that promote negative reproductive health outcomes; and (4) social norms regarding sexuality and gender issues, such as sexual risk-taking and multiple partnerships have negative implications for the risk-taking behaviours of adolescent males and females.
Citizen security, community safety and access to justice: Young people are the major victims and perpetrators of crime and violence. Violence among youth in Jamaica constitutes a major public health challenge Violence is reproduced among youth, given the influence of both proximal (near environment/within family) and distal (far environment/community and beyond) factors