International Year of Youth - Fact Sheet - Youth as a Smart Investment

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With many competing demands for scarce funds, countries often do not fully recognize how critical young people are to their national economies, societies, and democracies - both today and in the future - and consequently make too few public investments in programmes to harness their productive resources. Conversely, without adequate opportunity and investment, youth contribute to the costly problems that plague each world region, such as diseases, violence and loss of productivity. Countries should make children and youth part of the national investment strategies and provide sufficient resources. The accumulation of human and social capital must start at a young age as the brain develops rapidly during early childhood and adolescence. Moreover, early cognitive and non-cognitive skills and health capabilities lead to enhanced effectiveness of later investment. As a result, by building a strong foundation, investing in programmes tailored to children and youth advances socio-economic development. Failing to invest in children and youth triggers substantial economic, social, and political costs resulting from negative outcomes such as early school drop-out, poor labor market entry, risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse, and crime and violence. In many countries the overall damage to society amounts to several per cent of the gross domestic product per year. Rough estimates show that preventable risky behaviours induce losses to society that reach into billions of dollars. For example, in Latin America and the Caribbean, a range of negative youth behaviours reduces economic growth by up to 2 percent annually. These numbers do not reflect unquantifiable costs, such as psychological distress, poorer health, less civic participation, or intergenerational effects.

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