» Posts tagged: ‘youth



Recognising that youth does not represent ‘a homogenous category’ is an important step on part of the ILO, yet, its thinking about the role of age is rather puzzling.

A recent (2013) ILO report entitled Decent Work, Youth Employment and Migration in Asia authored by Piyasiri Wickramasekara lists a number of ‘distinctions’ (p8) manifesting within the category of youth. This list includes, ‘socio-economic background’, ‘gender’, ‘rural-urban’, ‘age’, etc. The explanation of how ‘age’ leads to social differentiation among youth is rather interesting:

‘Age: the 15-19 year group are teenagers while those between ages 20-24 years could be described as young adults. The first group is more at risk of child labour and informal work (ILO 2012b)’

This ultimately appears to say more about how the ILO sees the world than how ‘age’ may work as a relation of social differentiation between young people.

posted by Roy Huijsmans

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.’



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.


Armstrong’s message to youth

Category: youth

18 Jan 2013

by Raúl Escobar

Yesterday, in a popular US talkshow, Lance Armstrong admitted his use of forbidden substances like EPO to win seven Tour de France editions. Much has been said about how the use of doping has tainted cycling as a sport. And in the case of Armstrong how it has betrayed the people he was standing for as a cancer survivor.

What has not received much attention yet is how Armstrong’s admittance may affect youth. International sport stars are often (considered) role models for young people, and child and youth organisations have long acted on this awareness. See for example, Save the Children’s recent announcement of Real Madrid football star Cristiano Ronaldo as their new ‘Global Artist Ambassador for Child Hunger and Nutrition‘. In such light, what messages do explanation by sporting heroes about resorting to forbidden substances because everyone else was doing it, and because it was the only way to win send to young people the world over?

For the full interview with Lance Armstrong click HERE.

A post-2015 agenda?

Category: United Nations| youth

20 Dec 2012

posted by Roy Huijsmans

With the expiry date of the Millennium Development Goals around the corner something interesting is happening. The entire UN machine has moved into a ‘post-2015 development agenda’ mode.

Timelines are drawn, meetings are called for, consultation rounds are organised, press-statements are issued, and background documents are produced. Youth too are included in this machinery. For this purpose there is the United Nations sponsored webspace called ‘The World We Want‘. It invites young people to become involved in the ‘post-2015 development agenda’ discussion on a number of predefined topics.

Despite all the noise, the unquestioned starting point appears that there must be a new ‘global’ agenda following the MDGs. For example, none of the 24 framing questions the UN High-level Panel on the post 2015 development agenda is considering questions the very idea of such an agenda. This mutes the question of who actually needs a post-2015 development agenda most?

The need for such agendas is also naturalized through the mobilisation of certain youth voices. The following quote appears prominently in a ‘Toolkit‘ for post-MDG youth consultation:

I am a product of the MDG generation. The MDGs have been part of my ‘coming of age’.

One wonders, how many young people would actually see themselves like this? Hence, rather than mobilising such quotes in an uncritical fashion it raises real questions about youth participation as practiced by United Nations bodies and associated civil society. Who are the young people participating in such fora? What are the parameters of the discussion? How come some young people have come to embody United Nations discourses to the extent that they refer to themselves as part of an MDG generation? What does all this say about the world of development and the incorporation of youth?


Category: policy| youth

21 Nov 2012

posted by Roy Huijsmans

Youthpolicy.org is a web-portal with excellent information on youth policies from across the world, and from across the policy cycle. It describes itself as a:

Global community and knowledge base on youth policy, understood as policies pertaining to young people’s rights and realities. Home of a series of public youth policy audits.

The portal includes a range of themes, including ‘youth and health‘, ‘youth internet and governance‘, ‘youth and development‘, and ‘youth policy reviews‘. Curiously, however, other important and relevant themes like ‘youth and sexuality’ and ‘youth and work’ appear absent.

For the ‘youth policy reviews’ it currently seeks ‘young youth researchers‘ (application deadline 14 December 2012).


posted by Roy Huijsmans

Volume 12 of the Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia is a themed issue on ‘The living and the dead‘. The volume contains five articles and five review essays on the topic including an article by Abdur Rozaki entitled ‘Suicide among Indonesian Children/Teenagers’ (freely downloadable in Bahasa Indonesia, English, Japanes and Thai).

The article starts with the worrying claim that ‘suicide among Indonesian children/teenagers is apparently increasing every year’. Although an important issue it is unclear whether this trend can be substantiated empirically as the author notes that ‘there is no specific national data regarding number of suicides’.

The main thrust of the article is trying to explain why Indonesian teenagers (which appears a more appropriate term than ‘children/teenagers’ used by the author) commit suicide, and why the prevalence appears higher in the Gunung Kidul regency (Yogyakarta) than elsewhere in Indonesia.

The conclusions leave one, however, with more questions than answers. The author concludes that ‘children [teenagers] are forced to face a complex reality beyond their emotion control and capacity to overcome certain life problems and when cornerned, they decide to choose “short cuts” to find solutions’, something, it is stressed, has increased because of the socio-political changes since 1998. This supposed relation between broad based socio-political changes and the particular condition of adolescence (based on an assumed limited capacity for ’emotion control’) is hardly specific and questionable. Not in the least since it would apply to all Indonesian teenagers, thus still leaving readers with the question why the incidence of teenage suicide appears higher in certain parts of Indonesia than in others.


posted by Roy Huijsmans

Some days ago the Lao B-Boy group Lao Bangfai posted a strong statement on their Facebook page (for an earlier post see on Lao Bangfai go HERE). Their message is straight forward. They are happy that they often asked to perform on all sorts of occasions, yet, they are annoyed with constant requests to put on such shows for free or for a much lower fee than their usual one.

In their words:

Of course you would prefer us to dance for free, and WE don’t dance for the money, but who pays our bills? Who pays our food and water while we are training for your event? We have a studio that we rent, just like you rent your house.’

To be sure, Lao Bangfai does not always charge fees (e.g. exceptions may be made for charity  related events) and it is particularly when their involvement is sought by commercial parties that complaints about fees annoys them:

‘You know yourself (Organizers and Promoters) that Laobangfai can attract more people to your event than any other local artist (no disrespect but it has been the case in all past events). So please respect our service fees, think before commenting and complaining.’

The artistic value of Lao Bangfai is recognised across the globe as their long list of awards and prizes indicates, so why then is it not recognised as a form of ‘work’ and properly rewarded? Their may be two issues at stake here. First, is the work of art, which b-dance is, which is too often not recognised as a form of labour. It may be viewed as an unproductive activity, a form of leisure rather than labour, etc.  Second, this artistic labour is done by young people who present themselves as youth. Diane Elson observed in an article way back in 1982 that due to the ‘seniority system’ it is extremely difficult for children, and to some extent for youth too (!), to achieve ‘full recognition [by adults] in monetary terms for the skills they possess and the contributions they make’ (p. 493). This appears to hold for Lao Bangfai too and is further complicated by the fact that their artistic work is seldom given due recognition as a form of labour.

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