Our Perspective


How do you unlock the immense potential of youth?

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Nearly 300 million youth are underemployed in low-end or dead-end jobs. Trapped in low productivity and low paid jobs, they hover on the border of poverty. Photo: UNDP Sri Lanka

Several countries across Asia and the Pacific are grappling with this question.

Our latest Regional Human Development Report explores how countries can take advantage of this tremendous opportunity to build a better future for youth, boost economic success, and power human development.

This region is home to about 670 million youth. But about 220 million of them -- of which a disproportionately large share are female -- are missing.

They are neither studying nor working, and youth unemployment rates are on the rise.

Nearly 300 million youth are underemployed in low-end or dead-end jobs. Trapped in low productivity and low paid jobs, they hover on the border of poverty.

Our report advances three policies to harness the potential of young people, and help countries achieve their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals. The report asks governments to:
•    invest more in capabilities such as education and health
•    smooth the transition from school to work, AND
•    encourage youth participation

The first recommendation: Governments need to invest time and money in improving the quality of education, and this education must be made accessible to more youth, especially poor youth. Many of whom are out of school or have dropped out of school.  

While we invest in education, this education must be tailored to meet the demands of the labor markets.
Health care should be universal, because poor health affects productivity.

The Second Recommendation: Governments need to smooth the transition from school to employment, so that youth graduating from schools and universities have access to decent jobs, and vocational training that can get them those decent jobs.

The Third Recommendation: Young people need opportunities to be engaged in civic and political life, so that they can have a say in the choices that will affect them now and in the future.

Past experience reveals that some countries of East Asia -- including Japan and Republic of Korea -- achieved their economic miracles by investing in education and health. Countries of the Southeast and South Asia need to follow the suit.

In the region UNDP, is working on several projects to help bolster youth productivity and engagement.

•    In Bhutan an innovative gaming platform for youth gauges the preferences of youth. UNDP has also helped the government of Bhutan in developing strategies aimed at boosting youth employment

•    In Sri Lanka youth in post-conflict communities have been provided with leadership training and guidance, which led to increased youth participation and strengthening of youth leaders at village level

•    In Nepal, UNDP partnered with the Microsoft Innovation Center to develop the Idea factory, a youth entrepreneurship venture to sell #MadeInNepal products online
So what governments do in the next few years will be a predictor of economic success and human development. The flip side is the danger of frustrated youth, and the risk of social instability.

So governments need to act now…to ensure that no youth are left behind.

Blog post Human development report Youth Asia & the Pacific

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