UN report: More young people alive today than ever before

A United Nations report says that more young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are alive today than ever before, a demographic shift that both poses challenges and offers potential benefits.

In its annual State of World Population report released Monday, the United Nations Population Fund said that out of the 7.3 billion people on the planet, 1.8 billion of them are young people. Of those young people, roughly nine out of 10 live in less developed nations, the report says. In fact, the report points out that “most people alive today have yet to reach age 30.”

“The emergence of a large youth population of unprecedented size can have a profound effect on any country,” the report states. “Whether that effect is positive or negative depends largely on how well governments respond to young people’s needs and enable them to engage fully and meaningfully in civic and economic affairs.”

According to the report, Asia holds the biggest portion of the world’s youth population. India supports 356 million people between the ages of 10 and 24, more than any other nation, followed by China with 269 million.

The need for improved employment and educational opportunities is a common challenge that several developing nations face, with as many as 60 percent of young people having no regular job or classroom to call their own, the report said. With economic and human capital investment and access to financing, nations can address the risk of ballooning unemployment and unrest, the report suggests.

Nations considered to be the least developed are expected to see their working age population more than double. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the working age population is projected to increase by 150 percent by 2050, according to the report.

Other challenges highlighted in the report included the need to stem the spread of HIV, which is the second leading cause of death within the youth population, as well as adolescent pregnancy. One recommendation for addressing these issues is improved access to and education about contraception.

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