» Archive for: March, 2013

posted by Roy Huijsmans

Are these really ‘problem immigrant youth’?

The site Africa is a country features an excellent piece entitled ‘The Dutch Media Drama‘ by Martijn Kleppe, a post-doctoral researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam. The piece traces the remarkable journey of the above picture in various Dutch media. Kleppe shows that the very same picture is used as an illustration accompanying a wide range of publications on ‘problem youth’, ‘migrant youth’, and ‘Morroccans in the Netherlands’, and shows further that this is, in fact, in stark contrast with the actual origin of the photo…


Young Lives formulates key messages on child poverty

Young Lives, a longitudinal study of child poverty, published a report today to coincide with the ‘High Level Panel’ that met in Bali to decide on a development framework to follow up the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. Despite the gains made by the MDGs, the Young Lives report highlights the enduring – and sometimes emergent – inequalities between children across and within different countries. It paints a cautionary tale against leaving the poorest children even more marginalized by poverty reduction efforts.

The eight key messages of the report are:

Message 1. Inequalities in children’s development originate in multiple disadvantages, which compound to affect children’s long-term outcomes

Message 2. Inequalities undermine the development of human potential: children from disadvantaged families quickly fall behind

Message 3. In Young Lives countries, gender differences become more significant as children get older, but boys are not always advantaged

Message 4. Early malnutrition has serious, long-term consequences for children’s development, but there is evidence that some children may recover and ‘catch up’

Message 5. Inequalities open up during middle and later childhood, as children grow up

Message 6. How children feel about themselves and their well-being is both a major indicator of inequality and a channel for the transmission of poverty

Message 7. Education is regarded by both adults and children as having the potential to transform their lives, but doesn’t always compensate for disadvantage and may reinforce differences between children

Message 8. Social protection programmes can reduce disadvantage, but impacts are often complex, sometimes unintended and may not always benefit children.

Since inequalities are multidimensional, so too must be the response. Equitable growth policies, education and health services, underpinned by effective social protection, all have a role to play.

Young Lives is a 15-year study that follows the progress of 12,000 children in 4 countries (Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam) with the goal of challenging policymakers to effect change in childhood poverty. You can read the entire report here: http://www.younglives.org.uk/publications/PP/what-inequality-means-for-children

posted by Kristen Cheney


Why is it that American youth increasingly think that the sending of US troops to Vietnam was ok?

Gallup has run regular polls among US residents about the sending of US troops to Iraq. The figure indicates that, indeed, most respondents view it as a ‘mistake’, but that this a drop from 2008-09 when far more respondents viewed it as a mistake.

Interestingly, Gallup presents its data also in age-disaggregated and comparative form (comparing three American wars):

The data show significant variation by generation for the (lack of) support for American military action in Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam. With the exception of the case of Afghanistan it is among the youngest cohort (18-29 years) that support for the sending of US troops is highest. Moreover, it is only among this age group that the sending of troops to Vietnam in the 1960s is seen as a ‘good’ thing. The Gallup report evokes a Mannheimian explanation in making sense of this observation by stating that ‘perhaps that is because they have no personal memory of the conflict’.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

posted by Roy Huijsmans

A special issue on ‘Independent Child Migration’ that appeared in the journal New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development was launched yesterday in a seminar series hosted by the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, Toronto, Canada.

The volume includes seven papers, dealing with child migration in a range of contexts. This includes analysis of legal cases concerning child asylum seekers in Canada, young people and networks of migration in rural Laos (available HERE), work on separated minors in Sweden, and much more.

Two central themes running through all papers is that of ‘vulnerability’ and ‘agency’. The diverse papers show how ‘vulnerability’ and ‘agency’ are not mutually exclusive and offer perspectives on how these concepts work in practice and can be theoretically integrated.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

What does the new (2013) Human Development Report The Rise of the South: Human progress in a diverse world have to say about youth?

A simple word search gives some impression. The term ‘youth’ appears 26 times in the over 200 pages. ‘Youth’ appears 12 times in either the bibliography or annexes. Here are the remaining 14 ‘in-text’ appearances:

*no page number: ‘National HDRs have covered many key development issues, from climate change to youth employment to inequalities driven by gender or ethnicity’

*p. iv: ‘The 2013 Report identifies four specific areas of focus for sustaining development momentum: enhancing equity, including on the gender dimension; enabling greater voice and participation of citizens, including youth; confronting environmental pressures; and man-aging demographic change.’

*p.15: ‘If enough decent jobs are not available to meet this demographic demand, the consequences are likely to include rising civil unrest, as demonstrated by the youth-led insurrections of the Arab Spring.’

*p.91: ‘Democracies can also extend accountability from what is often a narrow constituency of elites to all citizens, particularly those who have been underrepresented in public discourse, such as women, youth and the poor.’

*p.91: ‘Among the most active protesters are youth, in part a response to job shortages and limited employment opportunities for educated young people.’

*p.91: ‘In a sample of 48 countries, youth unemployment was more than 20% in 2011, well above the 9.6% overall rate.’

*p.91: ‘Youth discontent in response to rising unemployment is even more likely in areas with an educated population.’

*p.91: ‘But unless governments give greater priority to job creation, they are likely to face increasing youth dissatisfaction as education coverage expands’

*p.98: ‘Reinforcing the cross-country analysis conducted for this Report, a recent study finds that youth dependency ratios tend to be higher for poor households and lower for wealthier ones, especially in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, and that differences in youth dependency ratios between rich and poor dissipate over time.’

*p.100 (textbox): In 1970, youth constituted the largest share of China’s population, resulting in a high dependency ratio of 0.770, with 1.08 boys for each girl among infants ages 0–4′

*p.100 (textbox): ‘As fertility rates fell, the share of the working-age population rose faster than the share of the youth population, lowering the dependency ratio to 0.382.’

*p.100 (textbox): ‘The youth population, though smaller than in 1970, remained large, and the dependency ratio was still high, at 0.736.’

*p.100 (textbox): ‘Under the fast track scenario, the demographic outlook would change considerably as falling fertility rates lower the dependency ratio to 0.532, mainly because of the decrease of the youth as a share of Ghana’s total population.’



posted by Roy Huijsmans

The UK based ‘Right to Education Project’ has long provided global comparative data on the age at which children may be employed, married and be taken to court. Its 2004 report is available HERE, and an updated data-sheet covering the 2010-2013 reporting period is available HERE.

The North America based ‘World Policy Analysis Center‘ has now launched a similar global database. The database covers much of the ground already mapped by the Right to Education Project as it includes data on education, work and marriage. Yet, it also provides data on protection, basic needs and special needs and includes a wider range of variables, such as, for example, a global overview of the minimum educational requirements for teachers in lower secondary education.


posted by Kristen Cheney

The threats to children’s safety in war go well beyond physical safety and mental health. UNICEF issued a press release this week detailing the alarming situation in Syrian schools. Not only has the ongoing civil war destroyed some 2400 schools, but an additional 1500 have been converted to housing and shelter for people displaced by the fighting.  This comprises 1/6 of all Syria’s schools.

In situations of war, schools are often made targets of enemy attacks, or can be taken over by troops for use as camps or bases of operation. Teachers are also sometimes targeted by opposition troops. Over half of Syria’s teachers have stopped reporting to work, many having fled the fighting.

Even where schools have not been destroyed or taken over — or where teachers have not been killed or displaced — parents will keep their children out of school, fearing for their safety. UNICEF reports that in Aleppo, student attendance rates have plummeted to around 6 percent.

While it may indeed seem sensible to stop going to school during a time of war, it means children are deprived of yet another important element of their development. Syrian children who have already missed out on one or two years of schooling due to the fighting are missing far more than an education. Education specialist, Michael Kelly (2005), writing about orphans, has pointed out that schooling can provide a sense of routine and normality in an otherwise chaotic situation and help children cope with upsetting events around them. It also keeps them in contact with peers. “Thus,” writes Kelly, “schooling helps the child develop a renewed sense of efficacy in relation to life and its circumstances, restores some lost confidence, and offers hope that life can move forward” (p. 71).

Realizing this, some Syrian parents try to arrange alternative education for their children in the midst of social upheaval and incredible violence. In a radio interview with PRI’s The World, a UNICEF representative details how displaced families living together in a cave conduct lessons for the children there. Children themselves have also started their own classes in shelters, inviting other children to join them. Some schools that remain open are running several different shifts per day to accommodate more children whose schools have been sacrificed to war.

Continuing education under adversity may thus prevent children from falling too far behind their peers, as it also provides hope to parents and children of a future beyond war.


KELLY, M. J. (2005) The Response of the Educational System to the Needs of Orphans and Children Affected by HIV/AIDS. IN FOSTER, G., LEVINE, C. & WILLIAMSON, J. (Eds.) A Generation at Risk: The Global Impact of HIV/AIDS on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. New York, Cambridge University Press.


UNFPA has made available an English language version of the Vietnamese Youth Development Strategy 2011-2020, and the Vietnamese Youth Law.

The Development Strategy document lists eight ‘Key Targets’ (p. 17). These include targets concerning the political socialisation of Vietnamese youth, targets on job creation for youth, education, life skills training, and the enhancement of the rights of migrant workers.  The last target in the list differs, however, a bit from these usual development targets:

‘Expectedly by 2020, the average height of 18-year young men and women to measure 1.67 meters and 1.56 meters, respectively’

This target suggests new ways of studying development, for example, it raises questions about the role of the body as both a ‘marker’ and ‘site’ of development.


posted by Roy Huijsmans

The phenomenon of children and youth as migrants has been on policy and scholarly agendas for some time now. And much good quality research has become available on the topic. The Child Migration Research Network (hosted by the University of Sussex) provides a good overview of people working on the theme and relevant publications. However, its focus is on English language work.

A recently launched website hosted by the University of Zaragoza, Aragón, entiteld ‘Minors and Migration: Childhood, Migration and Transnationalism‘ is bilingual (Spanish and English) and provides useful links to various Spanish language work on minors and migration.


International Institute of Social Studies

ISS is an international graduate school of policy-oriented critical social science. It brings together students and teachers from the Global South and the North in a European environment.