Challenges and Opportunities
In Asia and the Pacific, there are 717 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 per cent of the world’s youth. Across the region large numbers of them have benefitted from social and economic development. Youth unemployment remains the lowest among all regions of the world, at 11 per cent. Between 2003 and 2013, secondary and tertiary education gross enrolment rates increased from 59 to 77 and 18 to 30 per cent respectively.
Despite these gains, significant numbers of youth in the region still face obstacles in their access to sustainable livelihoods because of employment, education and health-care challenges. The transition from education to employment is one of the main obstacles facing youth, especially those from South and South-West Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific. Access to adequate health care is also hampered by economic, social and sometimes legal barriers. Furthermore, Asian and Pacific youth often remain at the margins with regard to participation in the creation of development policies.
Investing in young people makes economic sense. Linking education and training programmes to future labour market demands can help countries tap into the productive potential of youth. By increasing spending on quality education and training, Governments can reduce the number of out-of-school youth and help build a more skilled labour force.
If Governments across the Asia-Pacific region formulate national youth policies and commit themselves to investing more in young people, they create opportunities for youth to more actively contribute to the development process in the region. Young people bring fresh ideas and dynamism into the process, so that future generations of leaders can better deliver on making development more sustainable and inclusive.
An opportunity also lies in enhancing inter-generational contracts. By generating decent jobs for youth in the formal sector, young people are able to contribute towards the well-being of a rapidly ageing population in most Asia-Pacific countries. Furthermore, formal sector jobs, preferably green jobs, can generate tax revenues and set the foundation of sustainable tax-benefit systems. Such jobs also hold the key for promoting universal social protection through a life cycle approach, in which contributions are made and benefits are accrued from the early years until the final stages of life.
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 United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 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.
Research is undertaken by ESCAP on the situation of youth in the Asia-Pacific 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.
Supporting the Secretary-General’s Five-Year Action Agenda
In cooperation with other United Nations entities, ESCAP is supporting the implementation of the Secretary-General’s Five-Year Action Agenda
Acting as an active member of the Asia-Pacific Interagency Network on Youth
ESCAP is a former co-Chair of the joint RCM/UNDG Asia-Pacific Thematic Working Group on Youth, which functioned until the end of 2015. Since then ESCAP has been 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.
Youth Policy Toolbox
Over 2014-2017, ESCAP is leading 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. By means of developing a toolbox of policy and programme options, knowledge sharing and the provision of technical advice, the project seeks to enhance youth policies, especially in the context of promoting smooth school-to-work transitions, green jobs and active youth engagement.