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Social Development

Youth Empowerment

Challenges and Opportunities

In Asia and the Pacific, there were about 703 million young people aged 15 to 24, 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 enrolments in tertiary education rose from 70 million to 125 million between 2005 and 2015. 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. 

Investing in young people makes economic sense. If Governments across the region formulate 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 dynamism, 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 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.

Our Response

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.

Our Work

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.

Undertaking Research

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.

Acting as an active member of the Asia-Pacific Interagency Network on Youth

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.

Youth Policy Toolbox

This repository of knowledge, experiences and good practices was initially developed over the period 2014—2017, when 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 Youth Policy Toolbox was subsequently expanded upon during the period 2018—2022, when ECA and ESCAP collaborated on a Development Project on the demographic dividend. The Youth Policy Toolbox continues to be updated, largely through contributions of young people, and acts as a valuable resource to better understand issues around youth development and the need to invest more for their future.