World Youth Report 2005: 515 Million Young People Live on Less Than $2 a Day

UN Chronicle, September-November 2005 | Go to article overview

World Youth Report 2005: 515 Million Young People Live on Less Than $2 a Day


On 6 October 2005, the General Assembly reviewed in two plenary meetings the situation of youth and the achievements attained in the implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth, ten years after its adoption in 1995. The World Youth Report 2005 was also discussed, together with a supplementary report entitled "Making Commitments Matter", which provides an overview of inputs received from youth and youth organizations on the Programme's achievements.

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The World Youth Report, prepared every two years by the UN Secretary-General, provides the General Assembly with an overview of the social and economic situation of young people (15 to 24 years old) in 15 priority areas for youth development. To demonstrate their interlinkages, the Report has grouped these priority areas into three clusters: youth in a global economy, which includes issues such as hunger and poverty, education, employment and globalization; youth in civil society, related to concerns on the environment, leisure, participation, information and communication technology (ICT) and intergenerational relations; and youth at risk, encompassing health, drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, conflicts and HIV/AIDS. It should be emphasized that in discussing health and gender issues concerning youth, access to medical care and social services, as well as gender equality, are basic human rights, and that policy and programmes should be developed based on that assumption.

Youth in a global economy: Sustainable economic development depends upon the participation of young people in education and employment. Achieving the goals of quality education and decent work for all youth has increasingly been determined by global market forces. The challenge for policymakers is to support youth with programmes and policies that empower them to partake in the benefits of globalization and the spread of ICTs, while protecting them from negative consequences of the globalized economy.

It is estimated that almost 209 million young people, or 18 per cent of all youth, currently live on less than $1 a day, and 515 million or nearly 45 per cent on less than $2 a day. South Asia has the largest number of youth living below these poverty lines, followed by sub-Saharan Africa; both regions are also home to the largest concentration of undernourished young people. There is increased recognition that investing in youth can be beneficial to poverty alleviation efforts. Identified as a major group affected by poverty, youth are increasingly consulted in drafting poverty reduction strategy papers.

Education has always been regarded as the way out of poverty. Since 1995, the number of children completing primary school has continued to increase, and four out of five young people in the eligible age group are now in secondary school. Also, tertiary enrolment has increased and it is estimated that some 100 million youth worldwide are enrolled in university-level education. Looking at these statistics, one can argue that the current generation of youth is the best-educated ever. Yet, 113 million primary-school-age children were not in school in 2000, making them the next generation of illiterate youth, replacing the current group of an estimated 130 million. In rural areas, young people have less access to education, the quality of education is poorer and adult illiteracy rate is higher. The gap between male and female literacy rates in Asia and Africa appears to be widening.

Apart from making education available to all, emphasis should be focused on enhancing its quality. Abolition of school fees has stimulated enrolment, but without additional funding it can have negative implications on the quality of education. Despite the fact that young people are receiving more education, youth unemployment worldwide has increased to record levels; totalling 88 million, it is highest in the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. …

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