Afshin Molavi writes: Last October, amid the din of the Arab uprisings, the euro-zone crisis, the lingering effects of the Japan earthquake, and the US gearing up for a election season, a quiet milestone was passed: the world population hit the seven billion mark.
This is, on one level, very good news. It means that advances in medicine, nutrition, and education over the past six decades have dramatically raised life expectancies, reduced infant mortality rates, and eradicated previously fatal diseases. Over the past 60 years, we have become healthier and wealthier than at any time in human history – and yet, still, we stand on a precipice.
Of those seven billion humans on our planet, nearly half are under the age of 24.
In many of the poorest and developing countries, those numbers are even more stark, with 60 to 70 per cent of the population falling into that age group, particularly in poor and developing countries unable to cope with the demands of young populations. For example, three out of four Nigerians are under 35. In Yemen, the numbers are even more stark. Three out of four are 25 or under. Across the Middle East and North Africa region, two out of three people are 29 or younger.
We are currently living amid the largest cohort of youth in human history. Young populations can be a demographic gift or a demographic bomb. A gift when governments effectively employ them, deriving sustainable productive value from their labour while the young people derive meaningful work experience, raise their incomes, marry, have children, invest, and continue the cycle of life.
The next decade, however, will likely see some demographic bombs blowing up across the world as youth bulges push against weak or underperforming economies and unemployment and underemployment plague societies from Nigeria to Pakistan, from Egypt to large parts of India and sub-Saharan Africa, and in many European countries.
While this environment will inflict damage on men and women alike, the effect on young men will prove to be more destabilising.
The world over the next decade will be defined by the Angry Young Man, born amid this historic baby boom, and now entering the netherworld between youth and adulthood, unable to find a job, angry at his government, hyper-aware of the inequalities around him, frustrated by corruption, and connected to the outside world through social networking sites and satellite television. From Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis to Tahrir Square in Cairo, from Athens and Tehran to Delhi and Karachi, the angry young man, fist pumping the air, has become a feature of our world. [Continue reading…]