09 January 2007

Growing Up Global

Currently, the total population of 10- to 24-year-olds is estimated at 1.5 billion, of which 86 percent live in developing countries. The growth is most rapid in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. Call it a new wave of global baby boomers who are, in some instances, the first true generation of "teenagers" their countries have known.

Lloyd calls adolescence - or what Americans call the teenage years - a "relatively new life cycle phase" for many developing countries. Previously, young people tended to move directly from childhood to adulthood. Adult status was much more tied to physical changes, such as puberty, she says.

Spurred by improved health care, the onset of puberty is also declining for young people in many developing countries - from about 15 to 12 years of age. That trend, along with economic and technological gains, has affected cultural practices tied to puberty and delayed employment, marriage and childbearing while increasing time spent in school.

Lloyd and international development agencies suggest the possibility of a critical, and potentially dangerous, global generation gap as emerging adolescent populations age and their political and economic expectations rise.

The World Bank's 2006 World Development Report, following up on "Growing Up Global," found:

- Nearly half of all unemployment in the world is among young people.

- 500,000 young people under the age of 18 are recruited by military and paramilitary groups. Some 300,000 have been involved in armed conflict in more than 30 countries.

- 13 million adolescents give birth each year.

- Young people account for nearly half of all new HIV infections.

There is much more to read in the full article from the Bend, Oregon, Weekly News. I hadn't really thought about "teenagerhood" in these terms before---that as nations continue to develop, that having teenagers will be one of the growing pains. So to speak.

What will our world be like in the next 10 - 20 years...having this explosion of youth?

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