If you only read one thing this week…

(Too) Great Expectations? by ifyouonlyreadonethingthisweek
August 17, 2009, 2:22 pm
Filed under: conflict, Development theory, If you only have 15 mins, Uncategorized

When sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn coined the term “youth bulge” during the 1990s, he provided definition of a dual-sided phenomena that has repeatedly emerged throughout history.  Countries or regions which see population booms in younger demographics (such as the Middle East where 65% of the population is now under thirty), are privy to mass labor forces useful for fueling economies. However, if not properly supported the youth bulge can turn dangerous as in Kenya, a country which expanded from only just under 3 million people less than a century ago to nearly 37 million people as of 2008, with the average age around eighteen. Without sufficient opportunities, the concern is that many of these “idle youths” will turn to violent or extremist groups leading to outbreaks of instability and violence.

A recent article by the International Rescue Committee points out that 12 of the 15 countries with the largest youth bulge are also home to violent conflict and/or large displaced populations. It identifies the fact that a large youth bulge, coupled with lack of opportunity creates a high risk for destabilization. Furthermore, the fact that 50% of all aid education in the last ten years has gone to basic education is now creating huge pressure on post-primary education options as expectations are created through the education channels for continuing education and/or employment that are not necessarily being met.

The article has some interesting facts and examples (and makes policy recommendations) on the challenges of creating opportunities for young people at the same time as raising education levels.

To help mitigate circumstances and better infrastructure to better support this youth bulge, the IRC calls for both governments and NGOs to reevaluate their approach and aid for education. Whereas many education programs may be put up in response to emergencies, often the support and benefits are only short-term. In response the IRC calls for aid givers and providers should better align policy and foresight with humanitarian and development plans. Additionally, as the education system is improved, the economy must be strengthened to match and support its educated workforce. Thirdly, the education program in any given country must be accessible and relevant to the youth and the opportunities that await them.


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