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18 November 2014: Developing countries with large youth populations could see their economies soar, provided they invest heavily in young people`s education and health and protect their rights, according to The State of World Population 2014, published today by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.

The potential economic gains would be realized through a “demographic dividend,” which can occur when a country`s working age population is larger than the population that is dependent and younger, the report shows. But to maximize the dividend, countries must ensure their young working-age populations are equipped to seize opportunities for jobs and other income-earning possibilities.

“Today`s record 1.8 billion young people present an enormous opportunity to transform the future,” affirms UNFPA Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. “Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have skills, health, decision-making, and real choices in life,” he adds.

With the right policies and investments in human capital, countries can empower young people to drive economic and social development and boost per-capita incomes, the new UNFPA report states.

According to UNFPA, there is a vast gap between men`s and women`s labor force participation in many economies of the Balkan region including Albania. This requires the implementation of policies that increase access of girls and young women in the labor market and social policies aimed at helping women to balance family and work duties.

The UNFPA Executive Director urges countries in pursuit of a demographic dividend to ensure the gains result in growth that benefits everyone. “It is too easy to talk about the demographic dividend in terms of money, savings and economic growth, which have so far excluded many,” Dr. Osotimehin says. “The demographic dividend must be harnessed to achieve inclusive growth and offer opportunities and well-being for all.”

The report shows that demographic shifts taking place in about 60 countries are opening a window for a demographic dividend. The size of the dividend depends largely on how those countries invest in young people to realize their full potential, enabling them to participate in decisions that affect their lives and adopting policies to bolster economic growth.

Critical youth investments needed to reap a demographic dividend are those that protect rights, including reproductive rights, improve health, including sexual and reproductive health, and provide skills and knowledge to build young people`s capabilities. They also aim at ensuring freedom from violence and from discrimination, regardless of ethnic, cultural, social or geographical status. These investments can also accelerate fertility declines, which can in turn accelerate the demographic transition.

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