Here come the young: the next world population boom

Here comes the boom.jpgThe population of people under the age of 30 in fragile and unstable countries is going to skyrocket. And the world is not ready for them.

As tweets and headlines skip from crisis to crisis, the largest youth population in human history is coming of age in a steady, unstoppable wave.

While countries across Europe and East Asia grapple with declining birthrates and aging populations, societies across the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia face youth booms of staggering proportions: More than half of Egypt's labor force is younger than age 30. Half of Nigeria's population of 167 million is between the ages of 15 and 34. In Afghanistan, Angola, Chad, East Timor, Niger, Somalia and Uganda, more than two-thirds of the population is under the age of 25.

See: http://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/Op-Ed/2016/09/04/Here-come-the-young-the-next-world-population-boom/stories/201608210045

How well these young people transition to adulthood - and how well their governments integrate them economically, politically and socially - will influence whether their countries thrive or implode. Surging populations of young people will drive political and social norms, influence modes of governance and the role of women in society, and embrace or discredit extremist ideologies. They are the fulcrum on which the future rests.

These young people could transform entire regions, making them more prosperous, more just and more secure. Or they could unleash a flood of instability and violence. Or both. And if their countries are unable to accommodate their needs and aspirations, they could generate waves of migration for decades.

In the face of this deluge of young people, world leaders should be steering us all toward the former and away from the latter. But as serial acts of global terrorism, large-scale humanitarian disasters, perplexing political trends in Europe such as Brexit and persistent economic fragility demand urgent attention, the question emerges:
Is anyone even paying attention?

Consider India. More than 300 million Indians are under the age of 15, making India home to more children than any country, at any time, in all of human history. If these children formed a country, it would be the fourth-largest in the world.

Every month until 2030, one million Indians will turn 18 years old, observes Somini Sengupta, the author of a compelling new book, "The End of Karma: Hope and Fury Among India's Young." These young people will need education and jobs in a global economy that will feature more automation and fewer of the semi-skilled manufacturing jobs that absorbed earlier youth surges in Asia. India's demographic bonanza nevertheless holds the potential to create unprecedented economic growth - or it could rock the world's largest democracy and second-largest population with sustained instability.
Africa's population of 200 million young people is set to double by 2045. In the Middle East, a region of some 400 million people, nearly 65 percent of the population is younger than 30 - the highest proportion of youth to adults in the region's history.

In Pakistan, two-thirds of the population is under 30. Many of these young people will grow up in a Pakistan that appears to be growing more democratic but that also is rife with corruption, extremist violence and dire shortages of energy and water.

In Iran, two-thirds of the population is under 35. These young people are educated, tech savvy and full of potential. Whereas the Islamic revolution will be something they learned about in school, many will remember Iranians pouring into the streets during the Green Movement or to celebrate the nuclear deal with the United States. And they will watch to see whether engagement with the West benefits them or not.

Will young Iranians and Pakistanis uplift or splinter the politics, economies, cultures and security of their countries? Will they engage the world productively and peacefully, turn inward or pick fights with neighbors? Given the size, strategic position and military capabilities of these two geopolitical heavyweights, the answers will determine whether they export vitality or violence.

Unfortunately, the countries with most of the world's young people are the ones most ill-equipped to grapple with their needs, ambitions, expectations and inevitable frustrations - let alone capitalize on their potential. Developing countries are home to 89 percent of the worlds 10- to 24-year-olds; by 2020, they will be home to nine out of every 10 people globally.

Given these conditions, it is easy to conjure a dystopic future, a Hollywood caricature of lawless developing countries dominated by gangs of young men brandishing firearms.

But what if the world invests in these young people? These countries are capable of pulling themselves out of poverty and instability within a generation - the way China did, the way India might. But if the international community fails to act now, we will all suffer the consequences.

Dystopia is not inevitable

The developing world's youth boom coincides with four interrelated global trends: an information revolution, the largest movement of refugees and displaced people in recorded history, growing urbanization and a rise in terrorism and extremist ideologies.

These trends will spread people and ideas at an unprecedented rate. They will raise and dash expectations, pushing and pulling young people toward and away from their hometowns and homelands, toward and away from their desired futures. They will make young people around the globe aware of how others are living, the divisions within their societies and how those they identify with are treated by governments, security forces and others. This knowledge can inspire or anger. It can commit people to elevating their families and communities - or make lash out against them.

Coming to terms with the global youth surge is about much more than managing the logistical and governmental challenges of providing sufficient health care, schooling and jobs. It is about the character and mores of a still-forming generation. But, again, is the world even paying attention?

"Aspiration is like water," writes Mr. Sengupta. "It needs a place to go, or else it drowns everything in its path." If the raised expectations of masses of young people are left unmet, frustrations will fester, grievances will grow, and these people will seek opportunities wherever they might find them.

Already, we see an exodus of people fleeing violence, poverty or lack of opportunity. And it is the young, not the old, who most often vote with their feet. Roughly 25 percent of Afghans want to leave their country, according to a recent Gallup poll, and more than 100,000 are expected to head for Europe this year. The same poll found that 40 percent of Nigerians (a country of more than 180 million) would emigrate to the West if they could. Approximately 2 million Iraqis already have left their homeland. And they are willing to pay high prices and accept great risks to do so.

Developed countries in Europe are not the only destination. Syrian refugees now number 2.1 million in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon; there are 2.7 million in Turkey and more than 29,000 in North Africa. Half of all Syrian refugees in the world are children under the age of 18, many of whom missed important years of schooling and whose futures are now in question.

Youth booms historically paid dividends. South Korea, for instance, translated its youth surge into 12-fold per-capita growth in GDP between 1970 and today. If this happens in populous places such as India and Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia, Egypt and Iran, economic booms will transform the world.

But the ability of developing countries to create enough jobs in today’s technologically advanced and ruthlessly efficient global economy is far from assured. Even wealthy and well-educated countries such as Germany and the United States are struggling to employ elements of their workforces and sustain prosperous middle classes.

Unemployment can contribute to a sense of marginalization and grievance that can drive young people to commit acts of violence, whether they live in Nairobi, Baghdad or the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek. According to recent survey by ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller, Arab youth across the Middle East view a lack of jobs and opportunity as aiding the recruitment efforts of extremist groups in the region.

Studies make clear that injustice, discrimination, corruption and abuse by security forces are even more important drivers of political violence than poverty. Thus, merely finding jobs for young people does not reduce acts of terrorism or political violence. Of course, creating effective institutions of governance is a long-term proposition. A perhaps more attainable objective in the short term is giving young people a sense of self-worth and openings to contribute to and have a say in the future of their communities.

Young people need civic engagement and justice as well as economic opportunities to improve their communities. They need to develop their identities as individuals who have something to contribute, and as citizens. And they are not going to wait.

Tapping the potential of massive youth populations worldwide could be the opportunity of the century. Or it will unleash even more disorder, division and violence. Or both.

A tipping-point generation is about to bend the arc of history.

(Taken directly from Population Media Center)

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