New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 143

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DECISIONS FOR TODAY'S YOUTH [image, unknown] The facts

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The FACTS

Tough choices

1985 is International Youth Year
This year 1,445 million people - 30 per cent of the world population - are between 10 and 24 years old. This means more young people, as a proportion of the population, than there may ever be again.

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[image, unknown] DRUGS AND YOUTH [image, unknown]

"I used to smoke fifteen a day, inhaling and all that like the other lads. At least you felt grown up."

PAUL aged 17, United Kingdom

An Australian health survey in 1980 estimated that drugs were responsible for 19% of all deaths in the country. Of these deaths 79% were caused by tobacco, 18% by alcohol and 3% by all other drugs.

Smoking according to the World Health Organization is ‘One of the greatest health hazards of modern times,’ and a major cause of avoidable deaths’. Someone who starts smoking before 14 years old is 15 times as likely to develop lung cancer as a non-smoker. And a significant proportion of teenagers smoke.

Recent trends show a reduction in the percentage of smokers in the West, and a significant increase in the Third World.

AUSTRALIAN DRUG SURVEY 1980

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The dangers of getting high

Alcohol caused many more deaths among young and old than illegal and prescription drugs in Australia in 1980. Tobacco only kills older people but stores up a future of disease and death for the young.

Going up in smoke

More than a million deaths a year are caused by smoking. And among teenagers smoking is on the increase.

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[image, unknown] SEX & YOUTH [image, unknown]

"We used to talk about sex, about what you did. I never thought I’d get pregnant. I didn’t want my first baby. I was too young."

Cheryl, aged 20, USA

Marrying early

The earlier a woman marries, the more children she is eventually likely to have. Customs on marriage-age vary greatly around the world. The figures on the right show the percentage average relating to the 15 - 19 year old age group for five countries

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Early pregnancies are becoming increasingly common among young people, partly because in the West boys and girls are reaching sexual maturity earlier. In the Third World moral values are changing too, eroded by imported ideas on TV and radio. However this must be kept in perspective. There are only 69 children born to every thousand women aged 15 - 19, compared to 222 born to every thousand of their elder sister aged 25 - 29 (Source: UNFPA 1984) Births to those who are younger than 20 increase the risk to mothers under 20 years old are approximately twice as likely to die in infancy as those born to women in their mid 20s. This is probably because such women tend to be poorer and less educated; the birth steepens the spiral of poverty by reducing the chances of the women getting a well-paid job.

Babies at risk

Children born to very young mothers are less likely to be healthy.

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[image, unknown] EDUCATION & YOUTH [image, unknown]

"My parents sacrificed a lot to keep me at school. But although I respect them I don’t want to work like them in the fields."

Katrina, aged 18, Indonesia

With the increase of secondary education in the Third World, more teenagers are refusing to farm and join the trek to the cities. This drain of the young, the strong and the educated is likely to reduce agricultural productivity, and increase the chances of widespread hunger. And the chances of finding employment with the new-found educational qualifications are not always high. In Tanzania where schooling is carefully controlled to meet the country’s needs, there is difficulty placing 30% of school leavers. In Liberia a house-to-house survey found that 80% of young men with 12 years secondary schooling were unemployed.

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Secondary school enrolement has rised faster than school-age population. So there are more teenagers at school now than ever before.

Source: UN Economic and Social Council

 
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[image, unknown] JOBS & YOUTH [image, unknown]

"I tries to get a job in a factory. Sometimes there are vacancies and long lines. Sometimes just signs saying ‘no vacancies’. And they only take older men."

UDUGU, aged 16, Tanzania

In the past twenty years, world population in the 15 - 24 year old age group has risen by 67%, considerably faster than the total population. It is difficult everywhere to find enough jobs for this age group. And these difficulties will increase as population projections for the year 2000 put world youth at 1,000 million out of an estimated total of 6,500 million. In France while youth only make up 20 % of the active population, they contribute 46% of the unemployed; these proportions are reflected in most Western countries. In the Third World, young people make up an even higher proportion of the unemployed. (See Facts Box in 'Work for idle hands').

Looking for work

Between one quarter and one third of internal migrant in many countires are between 15 - 25 years old.

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In many countries jobs tended to go to the better educated. Males 20 - 29 years old in urban areas in Latin America.

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Source: World Health Organization, Geneva 1984

 
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