Definition of Youth

The Public Policy for Youth of Panama (2004) defines youth in Panama as 15-29 years.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • --
  • Female
  • 18
  • 14
  • --

  • No specific legislation for same-sex marriage. Homosexual acts legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  UN Child Rights Periodic Report

Majority Age


Source: Civil Code (1916)

Voting Age


Compulsory voting.
Source:  Inter-Parliamentary Union

Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • 98.26% Male (15-24) %
  • 98.00% Female (15-24) %

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 73.57%Male %
  • 79.32% 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) %
  • 10.50% Male (13-15) %
  • 6.50% Female (13-15) %
  • Year: 2010
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Panama has a national youth policy from 2004, outlining six principles and 12 key areas.

Public Policy for Youth of Panama (2004) is designed as a tool for Panamanian youth to realize their potential and become responsible citizens. It aims to affirm the rights of young people who are vulnerable, marginalized or subject to discrimination.

The policy is based around six principles, including: A holistic perspective of youth development; Participation of youth in society, decision-making & policy implementation; Inclusion of vulnerable & marginalised groups; Taking a cross-sectoral approach to youth policy.

The policy focuses on 12 areas: Life & liberty; Safety & justice; Participation; Health; Education & scientific & technological development; Family; Equality & non-discrimination; Work; Housing & access to assets; Environment; Art & culture; Sports & recreation.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has responsibility for youth policy in Panama. The MSD works with the National Youth Council, and coordinates the National Youth Service.

The National Youth Service focuses on two services: literacy classes and working with the social actions of government agencies and non-governmental organisations. An estimated 841,000 young people have become young volunteers nationwide.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The National Youth Council of Panama (CONAJUPA) is active on Facebook, but little information is available about its current work. As recommended in a 2014 UNDP report,
The National Youth Council (CONAJUPA) must also be reactivated as an organ of youth representation.
The UNDP report also recommends that the Public Policy Youth Council (CPPJ) be rebuilt as a body for information and advice, and as a liaison between government institutions and organisations working with young people. To date, no additional information could be found online regarding CPPJ.

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 on the budget for youth in Panama could be found online. According to the World Bank, Panama spent 12.93% of its government expenditure and 3.50% of its GDP on education provision in 2011.
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 May 2014).

Additional Background

From the UNDP National Human Development Report: Panama 2014 (2014):  
In preparation of this Report, 19 governmental and 27 non-governmental organizations were consulted by means of interviews on the current state of youth policies, the services that are provided to young people and the youth organizations in Panama.
Two points that were important to many people interviewed were the lack of spaces for youth participation and the large number of youth associations and organizations as well as government programs that have been disappearing, are now inactive, abandoned, in crisis or have changed their goals or priorities. The lack of youth participation or agency was a common concern to many of those interviewed.
It was also apparent the dispersal of efforts, programs or activities, the lack of coordination among government agencies and between them and NGOs, the notorious duplication of functions, the low coverage of many initiatives, the tightness of economic resources and various other factors that limit the scope and effectiveness of the work of and for adolescents and youth.
In some communities, especially urban ones, there are unresolved tensions and there are processes of social disorganization which in large part explain why some young people end up taking part in criminal activities or choosing risky behaviors that bring about results such as unwanted pregnancies, domestic violence, gangs, single mothers or a rupture from the school system (drop-outs) and consequently wind up in the informal economy or are unemployed.
Experts agreed in pointing out the importance of a comprehensive approach to avoid the most serious expressions of those pathologies, such as homicidal violence, HIV/AIDS or the consumption of highly destructive drugs.
People interviewed spoke of a long list of challenges and obstacles their organizations face, primarily in the areas of sex education, gangs, homelessness and, lato sensu, youth policies. The list includes issues such as budget cuts, lack of proper equipment, lack of qualified personnel, lack of monitoring, paperwork, breach of agreements and responsibilities assigned by governing bodies, an excess of negative stereotypes of youth in the media and the persistence of myths, taboos and stigmas regarding issues that affect youth.