TOPICS: Era of peak youth

When we talk about young people in Nepal, we often talk about the vicious circle that gets linked to youth: economic downturn  lack of employment opportunities  youth migration - shortage of youth force in economic sector - economic downturn.

But this circle can be broken, if we can play our cards carefully.

Earthquake, blockade, and syndicate can be replaced by rebuilding resilient and reintegration works.

In Nepal, the median age of our population is 23.4. But this will not carry on forever if we can play our cards carefully. It is the last time in the planet’s history that more people will be under 30 rather than older: right now we are living in the era of ‘peak youth’.

The total number of young people in the world is starting to plateau. Today, we have the largest global youth population in history, and this mass will remain for several decades before beginning to shrink later this century.

First, we need to change the way we think about youth. The UN counts 1.8 billion as youths because they are 15 to 24 years old, but this definition is changing.

The transition to adulthood is being stretched in all countries, as young people in our country are still waiting to take the lead of development and rebuilding initiatives.   The power of youth is that they are neither dependent children nor fully independent adults.

Young people are a vital group facing huge personal challenges, challenges on which society collectively succeeds or fails. Youth is not an age bracket, it is the passing from dependency to independence. It is a transition full of potential.

Second, we need to change the way we think about what youth can do. This will happen within the lifetimes of many of us today.

We have seen an example of what young people can do to change our country positively already, in the way that our young people are returning from migration to rebuild their damaged homes, and promoting social entrepreneurship in their communities.

Finally, we need to change our assumptions about what young people want. So many of those stereotypes about young people in our country come from assuming that what they want is either to change things in a way that is a threat to society, or that they are so apathetic they do not want anything at all.

Most of all, they want to show they can, and are already leading. This moment of ‘peak youth’ can be a historic opportunity for positive change.