The growing young population of the world could herald a fast economic growth in the world, but problems of poor healthcare access and lack of education in developing countries are coming in the way of utilising the youth power, said the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in a report.
In its annual State of the World Population report, the UNFPA said the number of working-age population is more than the people of non-working age. Thus, children and elderly are posing less economic burden. This shift has been possible due to low fertility rates and mortality rates.
"We have an unprecedented 1.8 billion young people, the largest the world has ever known and the largest the world will ever know," UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"We have an opportunity, particularly the developing world, to take advantage of their energy, their creativity and innovation - to develop their economies and societies," he added.
The report said governments in rapidly developing countries must invest in their growing youth populations to keep away problems such as unemployment, political unrest and alcohol and drug abuse.
Investment is needed in health and education sectors for proper socio-economic development. The less-developed countries can harness ways to create new jobs and remove poverty from the country, but a well-thought development strategy is needed for these youth.
In many poor countries, the increasing number of youth is not able to contribute to the growth of the economy and institutions responsible for providing basic services such as education and access to the job market are not able to cater to this huge number, the UNFPA report said.
Some 89 percent of the world's youth live in less developed countries. The report said the share of population is also growing. In Afghanistan, East Timor and 15 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 50 percent of the population is under 18 years of age, the report said.
In less-developed countries, youth face a lot of problems. Nearly 200 million cannot read a full sentence, according to the UNFPA. In less-developed countries, out of 15 million young people who enter the job market each year, over 50 percent can't get employment or are partially employed.
The situation for girls and young women is worse. One in three girls is married before they reach the age of 18 years, said the UNFPA. Some 12 percent are married off before 15 years.
The report recommended that 'governments focus on increasing gender equality, including by stopping child marriages and increasing access to birth control, as well as expanding access to education for all'.
The UNFPA said some Asia countries have set a good example regarding plans for a growing youth population.
In Thailand, the government's emphasis on birth control reduced the average number of children birthed per woman from 5.5 to 2.2 in mere 20 years. In India, the government plan to improve education has brought in tech jobs and service work to the country.
"Recent shifts in the age structure towards younger populations present an unprecedented opportunity to catapult developing economies forward. The 'economic miracle experienced by East Asian economies could become a reality for many of today's poorer countries," the report said.