Importance of Young People Economic, Political and Community Engagement

Posted: 2016-08-26
Written by: EU Network
Category: Battle of ideas
Tagged: youth engagement youth india asia

There are more than 1.8 billion young people in the world today and it is the highest number in human history. It is  nearly 30 % of the world's population.  While the ageing of populations is a frequent topic, humanity as a whole is still young.   62% of youth live in Asia and 17% in Africa. Africa is the most youth continent. According to the latest report of United Nations Population Fund's State of the World's Population, the proportion of the world’s young people under age of 24 living in Africa is expected to rise up to 28 % by 2040, while in  other regions will decline. 

% of Young people (10-24) in the world in 2015
Source: United Nations Population Fund
Young people more often feel frustrated with policy makers incapability providing them with the opportunities and support they need to progress from youth to adulthood due to the fact that the transition from youth to adulthood  is a  period characterized by greater economic independence, political involvement and participation  in community life. Meanwhile, the socio economic and  political environment in which young people live can have a serious impact on their ability to engage. Young people entering the labour market today are less likely to secure a decent job than labour market entrants in 90s. Even during periods of economic growth, the labour markets often are unable to assimilate large numbers of youth and unemployment of young people is a concern almost everywhere.  International Labour Organization’s report ‘’Global Employment Trends for Youth 2015: Scaling Up Investments in Decent Jobs for Youth‘’ indicates that 73 million youth or 13 % of all young people worldwide, were unemployed in 2014. Youth unemployment  was highest in the Middle East, rising from 27.6 % (2012) to 28.2 % (2014) and in North Africa, rising from 29.7 to 30.5 % during the same period. Developed economies have been among to be hit hardest by the global economic crisis and in some developed countries youth unemployment in recent years has reached t worryingly high levels : Spain  - 53.2 %;  Greece  - 52.4 %, Croatia  - 45.5 %,  Italy - 42.7 %,  Cyprus 35.9 % and  Portugal - 34.8 %,  according to data of report ‘’World of Work Report 2014 Developing with Jobs’’by  International Labour Organization.  Estimates indicates that around 600 million productive jobs would need to be created for young people over the next decade to absorb those currently unemployed and provide job opportunities for the 40 million youth expected to enter the labour market each year. 
For many young people today economic and political engagement has become very challenging. Young people have been affected  no only by unemployment and social exclusion, but even with a job, many young workers continue to experience job vulnerability and instability. In majority of countries, a particular challenge is the large numbers of youth who, working irregularly in the informal sector, and have to face working poverty. According to the latest International Labour Organization data, around 286 million employed youth were living on less than US$ 4 per day and 169 million were subsisting on less than US$ 2 per day in 2013. Stuck in a period of stagnation growing numbers of young people are initiating protests and demanding change. The lack of skills and experience put young people at a disadvantage.
Need for leadership emerges out of a complex set of skills, knowledge and attitudes that are best developed combining  formal, non formal and  informal education.  Young people need an enabling environment that allows them to develop a certain level of expertise on the issues that influence their lives. 
Entrepreneurship has the capacity to provide  young people with real employment possibilities and opportunities. Thus, policy makers, educators and civil society should work together to develop legal, education and financial framework to enhance entrepreneurship education towards young people economic engagement. Investments in professional and personal development are crucial and young people should be central figures in development, but they can not tackle all challenges alone. Adults should  play a key role as mentors and motivators. However, young people have shown themselves to be powerful agents in the creation of jobs and  opportunities to enhance their  engagement.  
Moreover, recent Youth Business International and Global Entrepreneurship Monitor indicates that globally young people are 1.6 times more likely than older adults to become entrepreneurs ands young people are more likely than adults to start their own businesses. 
Programmes supporting young entrepreneurs should be flexible to accommodate young people’s differences, for example, offering mentoring programs since mentors play a crucial role in facilitating networking and connections and serve as positive  role models. Researches show that young entrepreneurs who are mentored appropriately are far more likely to succeed in their endeavours.  
Young people active political engagement is crucial. There are a miltiple of reasons and possible  ways how young people can be politically engaged.    At the same time, institutional and  legal barriers to young people’s participation have excluded many young people from political processes. This exclusion  in many cases leads young people to seek alternative methods of political engagement such as online forums and platforms through which young people connect and communicate and  express their opinions.  Policy makers should maintain an open dialogue with young people and young people should be actively encouraged to participate to articulate and achieve political goals. 
Recent report ‘’The World Youth Report on Youth Civic Engagement’’  by the United Nations emphasizes the importance of young people community engagement. The development and use of social media platforms have allowed young people to engage in new and innovative ways at the community level, further changing the landscape and allowing young people greater opportunities for engagement. Thus, stakeholders, including youth themselves, have become progressively more aware of the personal and community benefits of youth engagement, and young people today are becoming more and more involved as collaborators, team members, leaders and decision makers within their communities. Through their participation in voluntary activity, peacebuilding and sport for development, young people have been key stakeholders in shaping and contributing to community development. 
Efforts to address youth civic engagement should not only be undestand by generating more job opportunities for young people, but according to the latest global researches there is acknowledged broader need  to promote youth economic, political and community engagement to contribute young people social inclusion and personal and professional development towards  their welfare and sustainable development of societies.  Addressing these issues are  difficult because each aspect is multidimensional in nature.
Investments in young people education, skills development, employment, health (especially sexual and reproductive health), youth participation in the environment protection and political leadership, especially in the developing countries in which most of them live, will  help to realize their full potential and to become innovators and smart decision makers paying special emphasize on quality, efficiency and productivity.  How we meet the needs and aspirations of today’s more than 1.8 billion young people will define the future global leaders and change makers.
Sintija Bernava, President, Chairwoman of the Board of the Non Governmental Organisation ‘’Donum Animus’’, Latvia (European Union). 
Sintija Bernava is only Scholar of the European  Union of the  Ministry of External Affairs of India, Government of India ITEC study program ‘’Entrepreneurship Education to Strengthen Emerging Economies" at the  Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India. 


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