Developing countries which invest in better education, healthcare, and job creating for their young people could produce surging economic growth and sharply reduced poverty, according to a newWorld Development Report 2007 “Development and the Next Generation” presented in Kyiv on October 9, the World Bank press release reports.
According to World Development Report 2007, some 130 million 15-24 year olds in the world cannot read or write. This is not the case in Ukraine. The country’s gross secondary and tertiary enrollment rates (92.9% and 65.5%; 2004) are relatively high compared to the rest of countries in Europe and Central Asia as well as other middle-income countries. However, are young people learning well? To answer this question, Ukraine and many other countries need to implement a system to measure student achievement and education quality well.
Even if young people are well-educated, are there jobs for them? In many countries in Europe and Central Asia, unemployment and underemployment rates among the youth are much higher than those for the rest of the labor force. Ukraine is not an exception. On the one hand, international evidences suggest that employment opportunities for young people increase when the investment climate improves because new firms, that adopt and invest in new technologies, tend to employ more young workers. On the other hand, strict labor market regulations tend to affect young people negatively. Policies that limit flexibility and mobility across sectors (such as high hiring and firing costs) may protect existing work forces, but do not help job seekers, particularly young people with little or no work experience. Thus, an improved investment climate and labor market flexibility are critical factors for the well being of young people in Ukraine as well as in other countries in Europe and Central Asia.
More than half of world-wide HIV/AIDS infections occur among young people primarily due to unprotected sex and intravenous drug use. Ukraine has the highest and rapidly rising incidence of HIV infection in Europe and Central Asia (1.46 percent of adult population). Thus HIV/AIDS is an area that requires urgent attention in Ukraine to protect young people. Other unhealthy behaviors also start in youth – smoking, excessive drinking, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activities, etc. In Ukraine, these are particularly more problematic among males, who live only 63 years, or 11 years less than females (74 years).
The report concludes that there has never been a better time to invest in youth because they are healthier and better educated than in previous generations. However, failure to seize this opportunity to train them more effectively for the workplace, and to be active citizens, could lead to widespread disillusionment, social tensions and economic decline.
"Many young people in Ukraine today are more educated, more open to changes and have increased contacts with the outside world through the internet and other media. This can ease their transition into being the engaged citizens of tomorrow”. – says Paul Bermingham, World Bank Director for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova. – “Expanding opportunities for young people by filling gaps in education, employment, and civic participation can stimulate economic growth, and produce long-lasting effects going beyond their generation.”
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