On November 18, the United Nations Population Fund released their annual State of the World Population report. The report notes that an unprecedented 1.8 billion youth are alive today, and only by ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health, comprehensive sexuality education, and employment opportunities can the full potential of these youths be harnessed and utilized.
According to the report, investing in youth is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. Ensuring access to sexual and reproductive health in critical in order for countries to reap a demographic dividend, where fertility and death rates fall, leaving fewer dependents and greater resources for economic development, including investments in education and health.
Finally, the report notes that investment in youth, including provision of sexual and reproductive health, are essential to achieving the sustainable development agenda over the next 15 years.
Some key facts from the report:
- The world’s youth make up almost a quarter of the world’s population. About 9 out of 10 people between the ages 10 and 24 live in less developed countries.
- India has the world’s highest number of 10-24 years-olds, with 365 million.
- Life-expectancy tends to highest where youth proportions are lowest.
- Youth account for nearly 40 per cent of the 197 million people who were unemployed in 2012.
- The leading cause of death for adolescent girls aged 15-19 worldwide is suicide. HIV is today the second leading cause of death for adolescents.
- Although progress has been made, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a common cause of death among girls and young women in developing countries.
- Every day, 39,000 girls become child brides—or about 140 million in a decade.
- Decades of research has shown that women in developing countries generally have more children than they desire. Young people have low levels of access to contraception, hence their contraceptive use is only 22 per cent compared to 60 per cent for women older than 30.
- Approximately 2.5 million adolescents have unsafe abortions every year.
- More than 2 million adolescents between the ages 10 and 19 are living with HIV or AIDS.