UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund

State of World Population 2005



© Tim Dirven/Panos Pictures
Young Afghan mother and malnourished child wait at a nutrition centre run by Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The Unmapped Journey:
Adolescents, Poverty and Gender

-Adolescence: Opportunities and Risks

-Reproductive Health in the Lives of Adolescents
and Youth

-Young People and HIV/AIDS

-Child Marriage

-Young People and Employment

Young People and Employment

Expanding young people's access to "decent and productive work" is one of the MDG targets.(96) With half the world's unemployed between the ages of 15 and 24, the challenge is considerable.(97) This is especially so in poor countries of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, where youth populations are still growing. (98) The world's highest youth unemployment rates are in sub- Saharan Africa, the poorest region.(99) Furthermore, when young people do find work, many are trapped in low-wage jobs with few opportunities to learn skills. Most of these jobs are in the informal economy where the pay is too low to overcome poverty. (100) Though young women have entered the labour force in large numbers over the last 30 years, their unemployment rates exceed those of young men in all developing regions-with the exception of East Asia and sub- Saharan Africa.(101)

"I married when I was 12 years old and I had a baby two years later. I had a lot of problems because I was very young. I did not want to get married."

- Bangladesh

"I was promised to a man before I was 10.. When the time came I was just handed over to my husband's family and when I saw him I realized he was older than my daddy."

- Burkina Faso

From "Too Brief a Child: Voices of Married Adolescents" (video), UNFPA

CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS AT WORK-TOILING AND EXPLOITED. The International Labour Organization (ILO) recommends a minimum working age of 16, but concedes that this is not always possible in rural settings where a family's economic survival depends on the labour of younger members.(102) Some 352 million children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 17 were economically active in 2000, 171 million of them working in hazardous situations.(103) In Ethiopia, about half of 10- to 14-year-olds are economically active, and in Bangladesh, more than a third.(104) AIDS is a major cause of rising child labour in sub-Saharan Africa, where 29 per cent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 work, the highest proportion in the world. Most of these young workers have lost one or both parents to AIDS.(105)

In many developing countries, girls and young women are sent to work for wealthier households to supplement family income. Most are denied an education, fair pay and decent working conditions. Many are at risk of sexual and physical abuse and of being trafficked within their own country or across borders.(106) UNICEF estimates that there are five million domestic servants working in South Asia, mostly girls. Roughly one in five children under 14 work as domestics in India, and 300,000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, alone.(107)

EXPANDING DECENT EMPLOYMENT. Youth employment is receiving increased attention. In 2002, the Youth Employment Summit (YES) Campaign was launched, supported by UNFPA and a number of partners. YES focuses on fostering young people's entrepreneurial skills and self-employment opportunities. National networks in 60 countries are devising strategies with international support, and the Youth Employment Network, a partnership of the World Bank, the ILO and the UN, is assisting 10 focus countries to develop youth employment action plans.(108)

Harnessing the energies, potential and citizenship of young people represents an invaluable opportunity to nurture agents of gender equality and socio-economic development. The socio-economic, national security and demographic implications of failing to invest in young people are far-reaching. The policies that countries and the international community develop will benefit not only this generation, but the next wave of children entering adolescence in 2015.

6. Partnering with Boys and Men >>
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