Dire liv­ing con­di­tions ham­per youth po­ten­tial

po­ten­tial of Myan­mar’s chil­dren and youth

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Al­most half of Myan­mar’s pop­u­la­tion is be­low 25 years of age (46.5 per cent). Th­ese 23.4 mil­lion chil­dren and youth rep­re­sent the fu­ture of the coun­try. Yet a new cen­sus re­port re­veals that many of them are grow­ing up in dire con­di­tions that ham­per their po­ten­tial in life: One in three chil­dren live in house­holds that lack ac­cess to safe drink­ing wa­ter (34 per cent), to an ad­e­quate toi­let (31 per cent), and to a TV or ra­dio (37 per cent). Most chil­dren (86 per cent) live in house­holds that use solid fu­els or kerosene for cook­ing, putting them at risk of res­pi­ra­tory dis­eases, poi­son­ing and fire. Only half of 14-15 year olds go to school (51 per cent). One in five chil­dren aged 10-17 is work­ing. Al­most 1 mil­lion chil­dren un­der the age of 15 are grow­ing up with­out a par­ent or grand­par­ent (5.2 per cent), and close to 60,000 small chil­dren un­der the age of five live in in­sti­tu­tions such as or­phan­ages and monas­ter­ies. 72 out of ev­ery 1,000 chil­dren die be­fore their fifth birth­day

“There is an ur­gent need to in­vest in san­i­ta­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and health in or­der to cre­ate a solid and safe foun­da­tion for chil­dren and young peo­ple, espe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas. Chil­dren who get a good start in life in a nur­tur­ing home en­vi­ron­ment are bet­ter equipped to be­come adults that are healthy and happy, and that can con­trib­ute to the coun­try’s so­cial and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment,” says Janet Jack­son, UNFPA Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Myan­mar. It is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to give tar­geted sup­port to chil­dren and young peo­ple who face sig­nif­i­cant dis­ad­van­tages. Th­ese in­clude chil­dren who live in huts and other de­fi­cient hous­ing; chil­dren who have never at­tended school; chil­dren who are grow­ing up with­out ac­cess to a TV or ra­dio; and chil­dren who are liv­ing with a dis­abil­ity.

The find­ings come from the 2014 Myan­mar Pop­u­la­tion and Hous­ing Cen­sus The­matic Re­port on Chil­dren and Youth, pub­lished by the Min­istry of Labour, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion and UNFPA. The re­port shows that only two out of three 11 year olds (68 per cent) have com­pleted pri­mary school. School at­ten­dance drops sig­nif­i­cantly for older chil­dren: Only one in three 14 year olds (32 per cent) have com­pleted mid­dle school. And only one in four 18 year olds have com­pleted high school (23.7 per cent).

At the same time, too many girls marry and be­come moth­ers at too young an age. Al­most 300,000 teenage girls in Myan­mar are al­ready mar­ried (13 per cent), and 89,000 of th­ese have al­ready given birth.

“The teenage years is a crit­i­cal time, espe­cially for ado­les­cent girls at risk or early mar­riage and un­in­tended preg­nancy. Young peo­ple rep­re­sent a huge source of po­ten­tial for Myan­mar’s de­vel­op­ment. Gov­ern­ment pol­icy needs to fo­cus on mak­ing sure that ed­u­ca­tion – in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion about re­pro­duc­tive health – ex­tends to all groups in so­ci­ety so that ev­ery young per­son’s po­ten­tial is ful­filled, no one is left be­hind, and the fur­thest be­hind are reached,” says Ms Jack­son. The re­port also con­firms the trade-offs that young women in Myan­mar have to make be­tween work and fam­ily. In ur­ban ar­eas, young un­mar­ried women are more than twice as likely (67 per cent) to have a job com­pared to young mar­ried moth­ers (29 per cent).

“Young women have par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult choices. They strive for higher ed­u­ca­tion to get a good job. But mar­riage and chil­dren of­ten means that they have to leave their stud­ies or work and forgo their in­come. Young women should not have to choose be­tween ed­u­ca­tion or work on the one hand, and fam­ily on the other. As Myan­mar mod­ern­izes, fam­i­lies need af­ford­able child care ser­vices that en­able young women to com­plete their ed­u­ca­tion or con­tinue work­ing after they have chil­dren,“says Ms Jack­son. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Myan­mar could ben­e­fit from a “de­mo­graphic div­i­dend”. This phe­nom­e­non, which has been a ma­jor driver of rapid eco­nomic growth in the Asian Tigers, be­comes pos­si­ble when the pro­por­tion of young peo­ple aged 15-25 is high and ris­ing. But to har­ness a de­mo­graphic div­i­dend, Myan­mar must po­si­tion it­self well. In some parts of the world, large num­bers of frus­trated youth who can­not find de­cent work have added to so­cial and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity. In the next four years, one mil­lion new jobs are needed to en­sure em­ploy­ment for Myan­mar’s large youth pop­u­la­tion. “The time to in­vest in jobs, ed­u­ca­tion and skills train­ing is now. For Myan­mar to re­al­ize its po­ten­tial of be­com­ing a youth-driven Asian Tiger, mil­lions of new jobs for young peo­ple are needed,” says Ms Jack­son.

Chil­dren play in a sidestreet in Yan­gon. Photo: EPA

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Myanmar

© PressReader. All rights reserved.