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The Truth About Youth

     "The majority of the world's people are under 25!"
    "Youth is the future!"
    "Youth can be powerful agents for change!"
    "We need to invest in youth!"

Global, August 10, 2009 - Lately, it seems everyone's talking about youth.  This is good news because it means youth are becoming an important part of the development agenda. It's now generally recognized that achieving the MDGs is contingent upon paying greater attention to the next generation. Most major global conferences and events now have parallel youth sessions. Organizations such as the UN and the World Bank produce major reports focused on youth. Discussions on global poverty often include references to "youth bulge," "at-risk youth," and "youth policy."

The Truth About Youth*

So, how many young people are there in the world, where do they live, and what are the issues that they face? International Youth Day is a good time to take stock of these questions and see how things stand. In many ways, young people's lives have improved over the years, but a significant number still face serious economic and social challenges.

    * More than 1 in 4 people in the world are youth
    * Nearly 90 percent of youth live in poor countries
    * Early marriage (marriage before the age of 18) is on the decline—one factor is girls' education, which often broadens perspectives, opens opportunities, and empowers girls with regard to the timing of marriage and choice of partner
    * Young people are healthier and live longer today than in the past
    * In the past 15 years there has been a decrease in the proportion of people aged 15 to 19 in the labor force
    * Only 40% of young males and 36% of young females have accurate knowledge regarding HIV
    * In southern Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia, approximately 1 in 5 males ages 13 to 15 already smoke
    * Globally 96 million young women are illiterate, compared to 57 million young men. However, the gap has narrowed in the last decade, as girls' school enrollments have been rising

*Data source: Population Reference Bureau

What is it like where you come from? Are young people are given a voice? Do you think there needs to be a greater focus on youth in national policies? Send your comments to


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