Adolescents Fact Sheet
Adolescents: 10-19 year olds (early adolescence 10-14 and late adolescence 15-19)
Youth: 15-24 year olds
Young People: 10-24 year olds
Today's generation of young people is the largest in history. Nearly half of the world's population (almost 3 billion people) is under the age of 25.
Over 500 million youth live on less than $2 per day. Some 238 million, or 22.5 per cent of the world's youth live in extreme poverty, on less than $1 dollar per day. 1
About 85 per cent of the world's youth live in developing countries. Asia alone is home to 70 per cent of the developing world's young people.
The poorest, least developed countries tend to have the largest shares of young people as a proportion of their populations.
While for many, adolescence is a time to learn and grow in nurturing environments, for others — especially those living in poverty — it is a time of heightened risks: Many drop out of school to help with family survival, or face violence, sexual abuse or HIV infection. For those caught in conflict situations, or for the 15 million orphaned by AIDS or others living on the streets, the risks are magnified many times over. For adolescent girls, these risks can be especially acute because of discrimination, limited access to education, harmful practices such as female genital cutting/mutilation and child marriage, early pregnancy and other reproductive health problems.
Many adolescent girls are obliged to abandon their schooling because they become married or pregnant. Every year, some 14 million adolescent girls (15-19) give birth. 2 Uncounted others have babies at even younger ages, while one quarter to one half of adolescent girls in developing countries are mothers before they are 18. 3
The highest rates of adolescent fertility are found in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. 4 Based on data from 56 countries, girls aged 15 to 19 from the poorest groups are three times more likely than their better-off peers to give birth in adolescence, and bear twice as many children. 5 They are also two to five times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than women in their twenties, 6 and their babies are less likely to survive as well.
Younger women and adolescent girls are especially vulnerable to gender-based violence.
Nearly 50 per cent of all sexual assaults worldwide are against girls 15 years or younger. 7
High numbers of young women report that their first sexual experience was coerced. 8
In the Caribbean, this figure is estimated at 48 per cent of young women. 9 Studies in Jamaica, Mali, Tanzania and Zimbabwe found that between 20 and 30 per cent of adolescent girls had experienced sexual violence. 10
Forced sexual relations are especially likely within the context of child marriage. 11
In Burundi, the UNFPA-supported NGO centres offering support for victims of sexual violence found that 88 per cent of the women seeking care in 2004 were young women. 12
In Thailand, intimate partner violence is a leading cause of death for women and girls between the ages of 15 and 24. 13
Sexual coercion is now considered a significant factor in the continuing rise of HIV among young women. 14
A large and skilled population of young people entering their most productive years can give a powerful boost to development. Large numbers of poorly educated young people without employment prospects, on the other hand, is a recipe for continued poverty, inequality and civil unrest. 15
Of the 185 million people unemployed in the world, approximately half are between the ages of 15 and 24. 16
While work affords some the opportunity to earn, learn and develop new skills, many others are trapped in low-wage, low-skill sectors with few opportunities to advance or to escape poverty:
Some 352 million people between the ages 5-17 were estimated to be working in 2000, 171 million of them in hazardous situations. 17
The challenge of youth unemployment is compounded where their numbers are still rapidly growing – namely in poor countries of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.
In 6 out of 9 developing regions, unemployment rates are higher among young women than among young men. 18
The gender gap is particularly evident in Northern Africa and Southern Asia, and it has widened during the decade 1993-2003.
Data from sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Asia show higher unemployment for young men than young women. In the rest of the developing world, the situation is reversed. However, the relatively lower rates for women do not always reflect the availability of productive work opportunities: In sub-Saharan Africa, a larger number of women work in subsistence agriculture, low-income jobs in smallholdings, or in other forms of unpaid and informal work. 19
Many of those who begin working in adolescence or as young children are subject to abuse and exploitation: Impoverished girls are more likely to be sent to work as domestic servants in strangers' homes, at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation.
UNICEF estimates that five million children work as domestic servants in South Asia. This includes roughly one in five children under 14 in India.