Urgent Investment Needed for Young People to Drive Sustainable Development

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) launched a National Human Development Report (NHDR) focusing on ‘Youth as Drivers for Sustainable Development’. As one of the largest and fastest growing youth populations in Southeast Asia, the Lao PDR is undergoing a demographic transition.
The working age population (20-64 years), who pay more tax and are economically productive, is overtaking the dependent population (0-19 and those above 65 years), who rely more on support and services. The country has a once in a generation opportunity to turn this demographic transition into a demographic dividend.
This is made possible when the 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 sustainable development.
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.
The launch, co-chaired by Dr. 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 highlights 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,” said Dr. Sthabandith Insisienmay.
“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. Young people must participate in decision making to shape their own destiny. 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,” Ms. Ricarda Rieger drew upon UNDP’s Global Human Development Reported.
The NHDR concludes that young Lao people are not reaching their full potential, and under the current trajectory, the Lao PDR will not achieve the demographic dividend. Young people 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 fulfilling their potential. The overlapping shocks that Lao PDR has experienced in recent years including floods, COVID-19 and impacts from the conflict in Ukraine are likely to push the country further off track.
The Report advocates for investments in future-ready skills development, healthcare that addresses to the specific needs faced by young people, including mental health, and empowering them to participate in decision-making. The most marginalized and vulnerable youth must be targeted through these investments. 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.

Source: Lao News Agency

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