United Nations: With 356 million 10-24 year-olds, India has the world's largest youth population despite having a smaller population than China, a latest UN report said today. China is second with 269 million young people, followed by Indonesia (67 million), the US (65 million) and Pakistan (59 million), Nigeria with 57 million, Brazil with 51 million, and Bangladesh with 48 million, the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) State of the World's Population report said.
It said that developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people's education and health and protect their rights. Within this generation are 600 million adolescent girls with specific needs, challenges and aspirations for the future, the report said.
The report titled 'The power of 1.8 billion', said 28 percent of India's population is 10 to 24 year-olds, adding that the youth population is growing fastest in the poorest nations.
As the world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 year, 9 in 10 of the world's young population live in less developed countries.
"Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life. Today's record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future," UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehim said.
The potential economic gains would be realised through a "demographic dividend", which can occur when a county's working age population is larger than the population that is dependent.
"Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for economic and social progress. How we meet the needs and aspirations of young people will define our common future," the report said.
In order to maximise the dividend, countries must ensure their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income-earning possibilities, the UN agency said.
With the right policies and investments in human capital, countries can empower young people to drive economic and social development and boost per-capita incomes, the report said. Between 2000 and 2010, the number of students enrolled in universities outside of their own country rose from 2 million to 3.6 million. It added that search for jobs and a decent livelihood is among the biggest motivator of migration, and the search for security and freedom from violence and discrimination is a major driver of refugee flows.
China, India and South Korea were the countries of origin for the most foreign university students, while the United States was the destination for the largest number, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia.
"It is too easy to talk about the demographic dividend in terms of money, savings and economic growth, which have so far excluded many," Osotimehin said, adding that the demographic dividend must be harnessed to achieve inclusive growth and offer opportunities and well-being for all.
Because of lagging social services, these countries face greater obstacles to leveraging the advantages that can result from engaging a youthful, productive workforce. The UNFPA report shows that demographic shifts taking place in about 60 countries are opening a window for a demographic dividend.
The size of the dividend depends largely on how those countries invest in young people to realise their full potential. A demographic dividend of this magnitude has the potential to lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and raise living standards and catapult economies forward, it said.
Critical youth investments needed to reap a demographic dividend are those that protect rights, including reproductive rights, improve health, including sexual and reproductive health, and provide skills and knowledge to build young people's capabilities and agency.
"These investments can also accelerate fertility declines, which can in turn accelerate the demographic transition," it said.
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Updated Date: Nov 18, 2014 13:59:26 IST