Just over 700 million young people aged 15 to 24 live in Asia and the Pacific, comprising 60 per cent of the world’s youth. Between 2003 and 2015, secondary education gross enrolment rates increased from 59 to 80 per cent, while gross enrollments in tertiary education rose from 70 million to 125 million. Despite these gains, significant numbers of youth in the region face obstacles in their access to sustainable livelihoods because of employment, education and health-care challenges. This is especially the case in the countries which perform weaker in terms of human development. For instance, countries of low HDI have an aggregate rate of youth not in employment, education or training (NEET) of 26.9 per cent; for countries of high HDI the rate is 5.7 per cent.
Investing in young people makes economic sense. If Governments across the region devise responsive national youth policies and commit themselves to investing more in youth, they create opportunities for youth to more actively contribute to the development process. Young people bring fresh ideas and energy, becoming and assisting future generations of leaders who can better deliver on making development more sustainable and inclusive. A recent report by ESCAP: Realizing Youth Inclusion for a More Sustainable Asia-Pacific, discusses the need to harness the potential of youth in the Asia-Pacific region, as without harnessing their potential, the road to inclusive and sustainable development will be severely compromised.
An opportunity also lies in enhancing inter-generational collaboration. By generating decent jobs for youth in the formal sector, young people can contribute to the well-being of ageing populations. Furthermore, formal sector jobs, preferably green jobs, generate tax revenues and set the foundation of sustainable tax-benefit systems. Such jobs hold the key for promoting universal social protection through a life cycle approach, in which contributions are made and benefits accrued from early years onwards.
- ESCAP acts as the regional focal point for the World Programme of Action for Youth, a blueprint for national action and international collaboration to foster conditions and mechanisms to promote improved well-being and livelihoods among young people. In the context of the 2030 Agenda, ESCAP promotes the role of youth in actively contributing to the development process and making it both more inclusive and sustainable.
- ESCAP works to enhance knowledge, capacity and regional cooperation to improve the situation young people face, through assisting Governments to develop comprehensive national youth policies and engaging young people in their programmes.
- ESCAP is an active member of the Asia-Pacific Interagency Network on Youth (APINY), which is part of the UN Asia-Pacific RCM Thematic Working Group on Sustainable Societies. APINY works to enhance the impact of the United Nations youth development work in Asia and the Pacific, especially in the context of achieving the SDGs. The SDGs on which youth empowerment particularly focuses on include SDG 4 and 8.
SDG 4 aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. There are 10 targets including the assurance that, by 2030, all girls and boys will complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education; ensuring that by 2030 there will be equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university; and that by 2030, all youth, and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy.
SDG 8 promotes sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. To achieve this goal, indicators are examined such as the proportion of youth (aged 15-24 years) not in education, employment or training (NEET) and the total government spending in social protection and employment programmes as a proportion of the national budgets and GDP. Some targets specifically influencing/affecting youth policy include the following: Target 8.5, Target 8.6, Target 8.7 and Target 8.B.
Tools and Methodologies
Research is undertaken by ESCAP on the situation of youth in the region, focusing on identifying trends and good practices on youth participation in development and decision-making to support Governments in promoting evidenced-based policies and programmes. Our key tool in this research is the Youth Policy Toolbox.
Youth Policy Toolbox: Over 2014-2017, ESCAP led the implementation of an interregional project to strengthen the capacity of Governments in Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Western Asia to respond to the needs of youth in formulating inclusive and sustainable development policies. The project developed the Youth Policy Toolbox, an ongoing resource which acts as a repository of knowledge, experiences, and good practices, and includes training modules, opinion polls, and message postings.
The Youth Policy Toolbox will be further developed as part of an interregional project on the nexus between the demographic dividend, gender equality and the SDGs in Africa, and Asia and the Pacific. The project, to be implemented over the period 2018-2021, aims to strengthen the capacity of member States and regional economic communities to mainstream gender into national policies and programmes, promote youth development and enhance national evidence-based policies aimed at reducing inequalities and achieving sustainable development. The Toolbox contains a Good Practice page where both young people and policymakers can find in-depth reports on national programmes throughout Asia and the Pacific which focus on engaging youth and improving youth empowerment. The Toolbox also provides policy analysis, resources, an e-learning platform, recent events and primary youth data.
The Youth Policy Toolbox is available via this link: http://yptoolbox.unescapsdd.org/
The SDSN Youth Solutions Hub connects young SDG innovators with experts from industry, businesses and academia. The goal is to equip innovators with the right tools and skill-set, enhancing their capacity and enabling them to scale their sustainability solutions.
The SDSN Youth Solutions Hub is available via this link: https://www.youthsolutionshub.org/
Although many resources can be found on our Youth Policy Toolbox a notable publication is Sustainable Social Development in Asia and the Pacific published in 2017.
Another notable publication, by ESCAP and several other United Nations entities is Switched On: Youth at the Heart of Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.