New York - The world's 1.2 billion youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are the largest and best educated labour force in world history, but have few job opportunities, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday. Th sheer size of the 15-24 age group has prompted national decision makers, educators and health experts to study its contribution to development and the challenges it poses to society. The world population now stands at more than 6.6 billion.
The World Youth Report 2007 said the transition to adulthood for many young people has been slowed by poverty and an inability to find decent work despite better access to education than previous generations.
"Because of poverty, and sometimes because of social and cultural constraints, many young people are excluded from accessing quality education, decent employment, health and other resources and services," the report said.
Access to quality health services and education has been unequal, particularly in Africa and in transition economies in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Many youth also face high rates of unemployment in most countries, forcing them to turn to informal economies, working long hours with low wages and little social protection, the report said. They have benefited from, but also become victims of the globalization phenomenon.
"Contraction in labour markets associated with globalization often affect youth first because they are often among the last to be hired and first to be fired," the report said.
Migration has become a way for youth in developing countries to find work.
The world's largest labour force lives in Asia, making up more than 55 per cent of the world total, where there is access to all primary education levels, particularly for girls. In India, the proportion of girls enrolled in primary education jumped from 84 per cent to 96 per cent between 1998 and 2002.
East Asia and the Pacific send 29 per cent of the global number of students studying abroad, and China alone account for 14 per cent of all students abroad.
In Latin America, 95 per cent of youth are enrolled in primary school, a ratio higher than the average of 85 per cent in developing countries. Young females in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela have higher literacy rates than young males.
With regard to employment and income, Latin American youth are worse off today than 15 years ago, the report said. Children under 14 have the highest rate of poverty, followed by those 15-to-19 years old.
The report said young people are actively working to find solutions to their problems and they can make significant contributions to society.
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