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UN: A third of youth in Latin America, Caribbean live in poverty

Saturday, July 07, 2012    

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QUITO, Ecuador — Nearly one-third of young people in Latin America and the Caribbean live in poverty, according to a United Nations report released yesterday.

The report, entitled 'Investing in Latin America and the Caribbean Youth: A Right and Inclusion Imperative', was presented by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Quito.

According to the document, in 2009, "the poverty and wretched poverty incidence" among young people between the ages of 15 and 29 in the region amounted to 30.3 per cent and 10.1 per cent, respectively. "This group, together with children under 15 years old, is the most vulnerable to poverty in Latin America," said the report.

In Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, poverty incidence in the same ages is below 15 per cent, whereas wretched poverty amounted to five per cent; on the other hand, poverty affects more than 50 per cent of the youth in Bolivia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Paraguay, while in Honduras the incidence reached 60 per cent.

The document showed a demographic profile of the youth in the region, analysed poverty and wretched poverty, examined the access to education and employment, as well as the range of training and labour integration programmes, and explored social participation.

The report, meanwhile, called for the design of comprehensive social protection and promotion systems for the youth in the region. Both ECLAC and the UNFPA stressed the need to reach an agreement to invest in the youth, with positive measures to be taken in the most vulnerable sectors, such as women and young people in rural areas, as well as those belonging to indigenous peoples or Afro-descendant communities.

According to UN data, persons between 15 and 29 years old account for 26 per cent of the total population in Latin America and the Caribbean and currently most of the countries of the region are experiencing a phenomenon known as "demographic bond", in which the largest percentage of the population is old enough to work and be productive, compared to the groups considered dependent (children and old persons).

The document also pointed to the increasing tendency to teenage pregnancy in the region, especially in lower income sectors of the population — in contrast with the decreasing global fertility. These are the cases of Guyana, Montserrat and Aruba, in the Caribbean, and of Colombia, Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela, in Latin America.

On the other hand, 16 per cent of young people between 15 and 29 in Latin America are not integrated into the education system or into the labour market, according to the report. Some of these young people carry out unpaid household tasks or live with disability, whereas others do not perform any specific activity.

"This group known as 'the ni-ni generation' [from the expression in Spanish 'ni estudiar ni trabajar', 'not studying, either working], because of being left out of both the education system and the market, denotes a persisting structural mechanism of social exclusion," said the report.

"The consequences of this double exclusion," added the report, are very serious. "On the one hand, it constitutes an explicit violation of the rights of the youth to education and employment; on the other, it directly hinders the opportunities for the region to break with the trans-generational transmission of poverty and leverage the demographic bond."

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