Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

State of the World's Youth

The United Nations has released a report looking at the state of the world's youth. There are 1.1 billion youths, people between the ages of 15 and 24 years in the world today. The 408-page report is the first comprehensive U.N. attempt to examine the global situation of young people since 1995. The report finds that:

Young men and women are better educated than previous generations and have access to more information via computers and other media, but 133 million remain illiterate and 130 million children are not in school. Youth make up about 18 percent of the world's population but accounted for 40 percent of the unemployed.

According to the report this is now the youngest planet ever. It's better to be young if you live in an industrialized nation, but in developing countries hiv/aids, conflict and poverty are taking a heavy toll on the lives of young people. 85 percent of youths live in developing countries and 22.5 percent of them survived on less than US$1 a day in 2000.

An average of between 6,000 and 7,000 young people become infected with HIV every day, with a total of 11.8 million living with HIV/AIDS, most in sub-Saharan Africa . The prevalence of HIV, is "relatively low" in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, but those regions are experiencing the fastest-growing rate of infection worldwide. Meanwhile, only a few industrialized countries had infection rates of 0.5 percent or higher. The report singled out 111 armed conflicts reported between 1989 and 2000 as stunting the development of youth in wartorn countries, especially in Africa. Two million children have died, 6 million disabled, mainly through mutilation and land mine explosions, and 12 million left homeless because of the fighting.

Interestingly, the report also finds that American youths appeared to be smoking less than their European counterparts and tobacco use in North America continued to decline significantly since the mid-1990s . This is not surprising since tobacco advertising bans and stricter tobacco regulations exist in the US. Tobacco companies have been turning their marketing tactics to developing countries, and despite fairly strict tobacco regulations in South Africa, smoking among black youths is on the rise, partculary among black women.

Another interesting finding was that the usage of Ecstasy by young people increased more than any other drug worldwide. I would imagine that this is more significant a factor in the lives of young people in developed countries and developed parts of developing countries. I think young people today in developed regions, who's lives may be materially better, are still living under significant pressure and stress as a result of post-modern, consumer driven society.