Understanding Youth Issues in Selected Countries in the Asian and Pacific Region

Published on


Youth, defined by the United Nations as persons between the ages of 15 and 24, is a transitional period from childhood to adulthood. By this definition, it represents almost 18 per cent of the current global population. A vast majority of the 1.2 billion youths in the world today lives in developing countries (84 per cent in 1995 which is projected to increase to 89 per cent by 2020). In 2005, 61.8 per cent of the youth population of the world lived in the Asian and Pacific region. Due to declines in fertility rates in the countries in the region, the Asia-Pacific has witnessed a “youth bulge” or a demographic bonus where 20 per cent or more of a national population are aged 15 to 24 and there is a growing cohort of working-age adults relative to the dependent population. Owing to a combination of factors, youth in the Asian and Pacific region today are better poised than ever before to participate in, and benefit from the advancement of social, economic and political developments. Compared to previous generations, a higher proportion of young people in the region have completed primary schooling. They are achieving better education, with the gross enrolment rate at the tertiary level reaching 18 per cent and 15 per cent respectively for male and female youth. The majority of youth in the region is healthy, having survived childhood years, which only a few decades ago had considerably higher infant and child mortality. Furthermore, across the region, young people show initiatives to participate in local, national and regional development as important and equal participants, rather than as passive bystanders unable to shape their own future. Although the present cohort of youth has numerous advantages and assets, it also faces a complex and rapidly evolving situation where new opportunities coexist with major challenges. Fierce competition is affecting the marketplace and its rules and practices in the region. Youth often remain in a vulnerable situation and lack the requisite knowledge and skills to adapt to the changing economic and social environment. In Asia, youth made up 20.8 per cent of the labour force in 2004, but unemployed youth accounted for nearly half (49.1 per cent) of the region’s jobless people. Long-term unemployment leads to a wide range of social ills to which young people are susceptible such as delinquency and substance abuse, and often feeds political unrest and violence. In addition, exacerbating the situation are very limited knowledge and poor access to health services related to the prevention of HIV infection, drug use and other health risks, particularly among those who are out-of-school in rural areas.

Available languages