Friday, October 28, 2011

UN: Wasting 1.8 Billion Young People

From Mr. Lalloobhoy Battliwala

A Guardian story below. UNFPA talks of "1.8 billion .. aged between 10 and 24, 90% of those .. in the developing world."

I have been looking at world population stats for several months now. (Because Russ dared to challenge some numbers I picked; besides, every reference to Paul Ehrlich irritates me). I pulled a number out of air - an average of some 100 million people PER YEAR turning 15 over the next 20-30 years who will not have a full package within reasonable distances of basic infrastructure services, variously defined to include basic energy (small amounts of electricity, cleaner cooking and heating), drinking water (even irrigation in some places), sanitation and waste disposal; basic IECTs and libraries; basic (primary, secondary, tertiary) education and health; and yes, administrative, commercial and police/judicial services. I kept drainage and roads out because while the most basic enablers for nearly everything else, including plain survival or market linkages, people tend to settle where floods don't routinely wipe out everything and they have some means of transport. There are many 'troubled spots' without drainage and roads, of course. I also didn't include housing and vehicles.

That is, everything that for the currently rich countries was established (save digital technologies) nearly universally, and for rich cities in the poor countries.

When I was born, world under-15 population was a little less than a billion, 75% of it in the 'less developed regions' (UN definition).

By 2000, world under-15 population had nearly doubled to about 1.8 b people, with about 88% in the less developed regions. This will continue to be the case for the rest of the century - about 1.6 billion youngsters in the less developed regions throughout (Some of it is an artifact of demographic models).

An average of 200 million children per year from 2000 to 2020, 2030, 2040, 2050 in less developed countries EXCLUDING China. I am assuming that the poorer and more remote, less 'connected', poorly 'serviced', communities and people have higher fertility, and even their survival rates improve throughout all age groups; they account for about a half of the total new children on average, even as infrastructure services improve.

That is, some 100 million children a year, or three billion citizens of humanity over the next thirty years will not have the "minimum conditions" - apart from shelter and food security - to lead healthy, productive, peacefully "engaged" lives.

Yes, I happen to believe that a healthy, productive, voluntarily engaged populace is the ONLY objective of public policy. The means and scale are 'special interests'.

A couple of billion people wasted. Four billion more in the rest of my lifetime (should I live that long)? (Apart from the newborns, the rest of the population without basic infrastructure is another billion or more. And the 55+ population is also increasing. I am talking about developing countries excluding China.)

Oh, well. The priesthood of 'clean' energy is fantasizing about 'green jobs' for Africa. Whether enough youngsters are healthy and educated is the first question. Some will keep on polishing shoes.

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