Nowadays the topic of youth is being discussed more frequently than ever, because the demographic distribution of the world has shifted and more than 40% of the population is younger than 24 years old. This puts a burden on institutions to include this vast segment of the society into decision-making processes in the sense of providing an active political participation as well as the type of policies that need to be initiated, and the involvement youth has in economic activities in order to develop. Does youth really need to participate in politics? Do specific policies need to be adopted in order to address the issues of this emerging fragment of the population? Are there any impacts or effects in the labor market due to this change in the age distribution of population?
To answer the first question it is important to remark the way politics have been structured throughout its evolution. For example in Latin America, political participation has generally been very limited to different minorities. The case of youth involvement has been a challenge because historically young people have been associated with the organization of demonstrations as means to achieve political participation. In addition, during the Cold War in this region, groups of organized students gathered to denounce social inequalities and struggle against imperialism. However, this has changed and the direction in which politics have shifted has led to a more active role of the Latin American youth in the elaboration of policies as well as their direct involvement in political positions. In this sense, governments have established institutions that look out for the rights of this segment of the society and to set their priorities. Political participation is needed not only because youth is a large conglomerate of the society but rather because addressing its capability to participate will make politics much more inclusive.
As for the adoption of public policies, there is a debate if wether they should be universal or should focus on specific segments or problems of the society. From the perspective of policies related to youth, they should not only be focused on this segment but they should also be able to be applied at a universal setting. In other words, policies should be comprehensive in the sense that they should address specific issues related to youth but at the same time they should commit to alleviate the needs of other segments of the society. One particular issue for which youth has struggled the most is education. The accessibility, coverage and quality of higher education has been a priority in which youth has focused its efforts, because it has been regarded as means to accomplish a social transformation. In Cuba, for example, the revolution aimed at the universalization of education as well as the improvement of its quality, which led to a development that simultaneously had the implementation of policies that resulted in a higher education system that was able to address the demands of the people.
The tremendous shift in the age-distribution of population has been a challenge for the labor market to adapt because of the increasing demand for jobs. Youth employment is a topic that has been addressed by different instances of governments. In this relation, policies have turned out to be more active in the sense that they refrain from only promoting youth employment and actually they aim to provide services, formation and orientation towards it. However, there is a section of young people that haven’t had access to any formal education that face an obstacle when trying to enter the labor market, for instance people who live in rural areas. In this case, the policies that try to provide access to education and promote employment face major setbacks and have to be adapted to the diverse situations in which young people live. For this reason, the burden placed upon institutions to include the youth in the labor market is tremendous and is constantly increasing.
The millions that are included in this group do require special attention because they are the ones that will drive the economies of the world, they are the ones who will be filling positions, and mobilize the labor market. Youth is also the cornerstone to develop new political systems and to adapt the existing ones around the world to allow widespread participation as well as the inclusion and integration of different interest-groups. Young people around the world are responsible for being active actors in their communities to promote development and to make their voices being heard. Even if they put pressure on the institutional system it is their goal to be part of its reformulation and the generation of policies that articulate and comprehend the needs of the world.
Photo Credit: Andrew Becraft