Young people are our future: celebrating world population day
11 July, 2014
On World Population Day, we talk about investing in young people.
Today is the UN Population Fund’s World Population Day. Founded on 11th July 1987 to mark the birth of five billionth persontThe theme for World Population Day 2014 is ‘investing in youth’.
Young people truly are the world’s future. According to the UNFPA, there are 1.8 billion people aged 10-24 in the world, accounting for one quarter of the world’s population. Concentrations of young people vary by region: most European states face demographic ageing as lower birth rates and medical improvements mean that populations are becoming increasingly elderly. Other regions have relatively young populations: for example 10-24 year olds comprised 31% of the population of Africa in 2010.
The world’s current population will bequeath a number of challenges to future generations. Future economic growth and prosperity will be jeopardised should the governments of today not invest in young people.
Two recent conferences at Wilton Park focused on investing in young people, particularly in higher education and skills. Our conference on higher education and development focused on the need for developing states to invest more in their higher education systems. The conference found that the status quo isn’t sufficient to satisfy the huge demand for education that exists across the developing world. Ensuring students have the knowledge and skills to be employed will bolster economic growth and further development goals.
Our recent UK-Germany dialogue on creating the workforce of the future highlighted that investing in young people is not just a priority for the developing world: ensuring that graduates in the UK and Germany have the right sets of skills to be economically useful is equally vital in Europe as well. Concerns were raised about young unemployment in Europe, with the UK’s youth unemployment rate running to 18.5%. Meanwhile, underemployment (people working in roles for which they are overqualified) is also a challenge, as this is a driver of increasing disengagement and falling productivity levels.
Both conferences highlighted the need to engage further with the young people concerning the nature of the services they want access to. By listening further to the voices of young people, governments around the world can learn how best to invest in their futures, thereby safeguarding the future of their country as well.
Reports for both conferences will be available in due course.