The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) launched a ground-breaking National Human Development Report (NHDR) focusing on ‘Youth as Drivers for Sustainable Development’ on Nov 8 in Vientiane.
As one of the largest and fastest growing youth populations in Southeast Asia, the Lao PDR is currently undergoing a demographic transition. The working age population (estimated for 20-64 years), who pay more tax and are economically productive create more growth, is overtaking the dependent population (0-19 and those aged above 65 years), who rely more on support and services. The country As a result, it has a once in a generation opportunity to convert turn this demographic transition into a demographic dividend.
This is made possible when where the increased large working age population is healthy, educated, has secure employment and opportunities to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Only then can this generation spur economic growth and contribute to participate productively in the economy and contributes to economic growth and broader sustainable development. This window of opportunity however does not last forever. For the Lao PDR, this opportunity for a demographic dividend widens for the next two decades but starts to narrow, beyond that point.
As one of the largest and fastest growing youth populations in Southeast Asia, Lao PDR has a once in a generation opportunity to benefit from this demographic dividend entering the workforce. In the coming years, an estimated 80,000 young people are expected to enter the job market annually. Within this context, the NHDR examines the current state of youth in the Lao PDR, the challenges they face, the opportunities they have, and their aspirations for their future. The Report captures young people’s lived experiences, including young people from marginalized and vulnerable groups, such as young women, young persons with disabilities, young migrants, ethnic youth, LGBTIQ+ youth and young people from rural and remote areas.
Key and provides recommendations are made across employment, education, health and participation in decision making, which aim to unlock youth as drivers for sustainable developmentbased off the compounding challenges, opportunities, and aspirations of young people.
The launch co-chaired by Mr Sathabandith Inisiengmai, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment and Ms. Ricarda Rieger, UNDP Resident Representative, follows extensive consultations with youth, the Government, UN Agencies, international development partners and civil society. Following the keynote presentation by UNDP and message from UN Youth Envoy Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, there was a highly interactive discussion on the report findings and primary recommendations.
The launch, co-chaired by Sthabandith Insisienmay, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment and Ms. Ricarda Rieger, UNDP Resident Representative, follows extensive consultations with young people, the Government, UN Agencies, development partners and civil society. Over 7,000 young people participated in a national survey and focus group discussions.
“The Report acknowledges the efforts of the Government to support young people and outlines highlight to us the urgent need to strengthen our investment in young people to yield the demographic dividend. The Report provides us with concrete recommendations that will require strong partnerships over the coming decade to achieve the Lao PDR’s priorities in the 9th National Socio-Economic Development Plan. Develop youth skills, improve job access and increase youth capacity to participate in local and national socio-economic development. The Government recognizes the critical importance of youth participation in decision making at all levels for the sustainable development of the Lao PDR,” said Mr Sthabandith Insisienmay.
Ms. Ricarda Rieger, Resident Representative of UNDP the Lao PDR drew upon UNDP’s the Global Human Development Report and emphasized the immediate necessity for youth investment: “In this time of uncertainty, one thing is certain, young people will grow up and inherit the world as we create it, and leave it. We have a unique opportunity to engage young people now, to work with us in finding solutions for the development problems we face today. The launch of this groundbreaking National Human Development Report, aims to catalyze youth as drivers of sustainable development. Report clearly identifies the critical importance of including young people must participate in decision making at all levels to shape their own destiny of decision making, and the positive contributions this demographic the Lao PDR’s ongoing demon graphic transition can make to human development as agents of change. By using the Human Development approach we can help to expand young people’s agency and freedoms to help us navigate and flourish in uncertain times.”
In a recorded message from UN Headquarters in New York, the UN Youth Envoy Ms Jayathma Wickramanayake referenced young people as the greatest opportunity to deliver progress for everyone: “The world is increasingly recognizing the valuable contributions young people are making to create a better world for all of us. It is time for decision makers everywhere to urgently make greater investments in youth. From improving quality education and universal healthcare, boosting skills development and creating green, decent jobs in support of a just transition.”
The NHD Report concludes that young Lao people are not reaching their full potential, and under the Lao PDR current trajectory, Laos will is off track from not achieve achieving the demographic dividend that its ongoing demographic transition is offering. Young people Young people are not reaching their full potential. They lack adequate skills to contribute productively to the economy. Learning outcomes are inadequate and unequal, health risks such as adolescent pregnancy and mental health are barriers that prevent thousands of young women and men from actively participating in public life fulfilling their potential.
These shocks continue to undermine the very critical public investments that will shape the wellbeing and competencies of millions of young people that are at the forefront of ensuring that Laos achieves its demographic dividend. It is in this context that the report advocates for immediate and urgent action to address rising unemployment levels, increasing school dropout rates, emerging mental health issues and persisting health risks associated with adolescent pregnancies.
As this demographic transition into the labour market, the Lao PDR’s economy is set to benefit from a ‘demographic dividend,’ whereby the working-age population exceeds the non-working age share. To realize this once in-a-generation opportunity and mitigate against the ongoing socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, concerted investment in the youth is required. This means prioritizing investments in investment in education, ensuring that young people are trained in future-ready skills development that match the needs of the labour market, creating productive and rewarding jobs while exploring the potential in technology based, digital and green industries, increasing healthcare provision ensuring that healthcare provision that addresses to the specific caters to the health risks needs facing by young people, young women and men, including mental health,, and ensuring greater empowering them to participate in decision-making. To drive inclusive and sustainable growth and to fully tap the demographic window of opportunity, concerted investment must made to include the most marginalized and vulnerable youth must be targeted through these investments and marginalized youth in this effort. For young people to fulfill their potential as drivers for sustainable development, the Report highlights urgency, and inclusion to ensure this once in a generation opportunity is seized, through concrete actions, to leave no young-person behind this includes young people with disabilities, ethnic and LGBTQI+ youth, young women and those from rural poor backgrounds to truly leave no one behind. In conjunction with intensifying investment, the report centers the meaningful participation of young people as critical in leveraging this anticipated demographic dividend, capitalizing on its a once in a generation opportunity and realizing sustainable development in the Lao PDR.
Source: Lao News Agency