DILI - Timor-Leste is about to enter a unique 30-40-year demographic opportunity window with the potential for rapid economic and human development gains. While many countries are challenged by their aging populations, Timor-Leste, the second youngest country in the Asia-Pacific region, has an opportunity to translate its blessing into socio-economic dividends by unlocking the potential of its youthful population.
However, this endeavour is challenged by a significant number of unemployed and underemployed youth who face multiple wellbeing vulnerabilities, particularly in education and community vitality. Unless more targeted and quality investments are made now in health, education and the economy, Timor-Leste may miss out on this unique opportunity to unleash its development potential over the next few decades.
Launched today by Minister for the Council of Ministers Adriano do Nascimento, the Timor-Leste National Human Development Report 2018, entitled ‘Planning the Opportunities for a Youthful Population’ aims to promote public discussion and policy making around investing in youth and their well-being to benefit from a potential demographic dividend. The report is the outcome of a two-year collaboration between the UNDP, the Government of Timor-Leste and Flinders University, Australia.
“Timor-Leste is presented with a unique opportunity to make a significant leap forward in its human development,” said Mr. Roy Trivedy, United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative. “This can only be harnessed through an empowered generation of young women and men who are appropriately skilled, well-educated, and equipped to contribute fully to the process of nation building.”
Timor-Leste is one of the youngest countries in the world with 74 per cent of the population aged under 35, making it the second youngest nation in the Asia-Pacific region after Afghanistan and 15th youngest globally. Consequently, young people have the potential to play an extremely important role in the country’s achievement of its future development aspirations.
The report measures the subjective well-being of youth aged 15-34 across eight aspects of well-being based on a nationwide survey. Promisingly, it finds that three quarters of youth across Timor-Leste perceive themselves as leading healthy and satisfactory lives overall, however, it also finds that more than 80 percent experience deprivations in education and community vitality.
“Political leaders, government officials, businesses, community leaders and development partners have a responsibility to invest now in the wellbeing of youth. We need to unlock the potential of young people to contribute more effectively to Timor-Leste’s development to help create a more prosperous and sustainable future for all,” said Mr. Trivedy.
Inadequate investments in education and training result in a large pool of unemployed youth who feel unprepared for and lack the skills required to access decent employment. This is intensified for adolescent girls and young women who are further disadvantaged in fully participating in education and the economy due to gender roles. The perceived support youth receive from their communities is limited while more than 75 per cent have elevated levels of concern related to safety and security.
Considering the noticeable decline in birth rate in recent years and the arrival of a demographic window of opportunity, the report proposes that the largest human development gains and a rise in GDP per capita from $2,619 in 2015 to $15,375 in 2030 can be achieved if interventions in education and the economy are complemented by increased access to reproductive health services.
The report recommends allocating 25 per cent of the state budget to education and training and calls for several reforms to achieve better quality education and the transformation of economically inactive youth into entrepreneurs in agriculture, tourism and other sectors of the economy that show potential for growth. (pr)