View Full Version : Is Youth Bulge a Crucial Determinant of Stability?

Petros Houhoulis
28-07-16, 18:49

Is Youth Bulge a Crucial Determinant of Stability?Published October 10, 2013
By Katherine Carter (http://global.fundforpeace.org/staff-kcarter)
Fund for Peace – Global Square Blog
View comments (http://library.fundforpeace.org/blog-20131007-youthbulge#comments)

http://library.fundforpeace.org/squares/youth.pngToday approximately 44 percent of the world’s 7.2 billion people are under 24 years old - and 26 percent are under 14. Of those 7.2 billion people, a staggering 82 percent live in less developed regions of the world – primarily sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Currently, the global median age is 29.2 years old, a sharp contrast to Europe, for example, where the median age is 41.This population phenomenon, called “youth bulge,” is especially prevalent in fragile states and Africa. Youth bulge specifically refers to a disproportionate percentage of a state population being between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. This is, however, almost always accompanied by a greater percentage of the population being under 14. Of the 20 states with the lowest median ages, 18 are in sub-Saharan Africa. The UN predicts that the median age will rise to 42 years old by the century’s end, and with it the population will increase to 10.9 billion people. Developing and least developed countries have the highest fertility rates and many are expected to triple in population by 2100. The populations of Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Mali, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are predicted to increase by 500%. In absolute numbers, population growth remains concentrated in six countries: India, Nigeria, D.R. Congo, the United States, Tanzania, and Uganda. With the exception of the United States, each of those countries has a median age under the global average.A young population can drive national growth, if the government and economy are strong enough to provide opportunities for upward mobility and financial independence. The problems begin when a young labor force finds itself unemployed, restless, poverty stricken, and uneducated. In recent years, countries with young populations have proven especially vulnerable to conflict, extremism and civil strife. Of the 67 nations currently experiencing youth bulges, 60 are also experiencing civil unrest and conflict.Here at The Fund for Peace, we are frequently asked if there is any determinant, a “magic indicator” so to speak, that consistently acts as a bellwether of a nation’s ranking on the Failed States Index (FSI). We are yet to find one, but youth bulge as a stand-alone metric seemed like one of the more viable contenders. Although we found that the age distribution of a nation’s population does not always indicate its FSI ranking, several patterns emerged in running the numbers.


Of the lowest 20 states on the FSI, only two countries, Haiti and Pakistan, have a median age greater than 20 years old. In all but four of those countries, children under 14 years old account for more than 40 percent of the population. Coincidently, those four countries (Central African Republic, Haiti, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe) have higher percentages of 15-24 year olds. At 23.8 percent, Zimbabwe has the second greatest percentage of its population between 15 and 24 worldwide (Swaziland with 24.7 percent has the greatest youth bulge). Youth between the ages of 15 and 24 comprise approximately 20 percent of the population in all of the lower-ranked nations. Ranked 18th on the FSI, 67.4 percent of the Niger population is under 24 years old (50.1% under 14) and the median age is 15 - making it the youngest country in the world. Somalia, currently ranked first on the FSI, came in as the sixth youngest nation in the world with 66.1 percent of its population under 24 and a median age of 16.3 years old. Uganda, the second youngest nation in 2013, has a median age of 15.8, with 68.5 percent of its population under 24 years old.Of the ten countries with the greatest youth bulge (the highest global percentages of their population between 15 and 24 years old), only two also fell in the FSI lowest ten: Yemen and Zimbabwe. However, within these ten youth bulge countries, similarities among several FSI indicator scores emerged. Seven of the ten countries scored highly in uneven economic development, poverty and economic decline, or both, and six also received high scores in factionalized elites and state legitimacy. Seven countries revealed significant demographic pressures – four countries scored over 8.5 out of ten in this category. These demographic pressures range from food scarcity, water scarcity, malnutrition, and disease to accelerated population growth.One of the trends that emerged amongst countries ranked lowest on the FSI pertained to the percentage ratio between population groups. In the bottom twenty countries, the percentage of the population under 14 was almost double the percentage between 15 and 24. Several factors could explain that trend: child mortality rates, recent spikes in fertility rates, or young militant deaths, to suggest but a few. This trend fades as we move higher up the FSI, and in developed nations those numbers are rarely more than five percentage points apart.


On the other end of the scale, the most stable countries on the FSI were comprised of older populations. In the twenty highest ranked nations, only three had more than 20 percent of their populations under 14 years old, or more than 15 percent between 15 and 24. Finland, ranked 178th on the FSI, has 16.4 percent of its population under 14 years old and 12.3 percent between 15 and 24 years old. Its median age, 42.3, is slightly higher than the European average. The other ten highest ranked countries exhibited similar demographics. Ranked 170th, Ireland came youngest in the top ten with a median age of 35.3 and 32.1 percent of its population under 24 years old. None of the 50 highest ranked states in 2013 had more than 25 percent of their population under 14 or a median age under 25. Oman, ranked 138th, was the youngest (in the top 50) with a median age of 26.3 years old – most medians were over 30. At 45.9 years old, Japan (ranked 156th) yielded the oldest median age, closely followed by Germany at 45.5 (ranked 165th).However, while the nations which ranked higher on the FSI tended to have older median ages, the oldest nations displayed a few concerning similarities. As this post discusses, nations with significant youth bulges tend to be at a greater risk of social instability, particularly if their economies are unstable and unemployment is high. Much of a nation’s stability directly relates to its capacity to provide basic services and security to its citizens, an economic capacity derived in no small part from taxation and the labor force. As defined by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a nation’s “dependent population” comprises of children under 15 and adults over 65 years of age. Those populations are not a part of the labor force and tend to rely on others and state or community funded programs, nor do they contribute substantially to the nation’s tax receipts. In this vein, nations with significant older populations often face similar economic stresses as their younger counter-parts. Of the world’s top ten oldest nations, only Finland (ninth oldest) ranked in the FSI highest top ten at 178, while Austria, sixth oldest, came in next on the FSI at 166, and Germany, second oldest, followed at 165. While each of the other seven countries placed within the 50 highest FSI states, they all face significant economic difficulties, some of which stem from their pension systems. Government spending is around 50% of national GDP in all of these nations. Excepting Japan, all of the oldest countries are European and were thus impacted by the European Debt Crisis. Japan experienced its own economic turmoil in the wake of the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster, but the economy had stagnated prior to those events. Japan’s economy is approximately the same size today as it was in 1992 and public debt is now over twice the size of economy. Public debt heavily burdens each of these ten countries - except Finland - and corruption threatens Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal, Greece, Italy, and Slovenia in particular.Further, although the states on either end of the index demonstrated that states with older populations tend to be more stable, the correlation between the FSI and median age was only 0.720607. Statistics in the middle of the index fluctuated a great deal more. For example, Sao Tome & Principe ranked 91st on the FSI but 62.1 percent of its population is under 24, while North Korea ranked 23rd on the FSI but only has 37.7 percent of its population under 24 years old.While the age of a nation’s population can sometimes indicate the vulnerability of that state to conflict or economic strain, youth bulge is not the crucial determinant of states’ FSI ranking. Additional factors such as education, employment opportunity, access to health care, and a stable government play a crucial role in determining whether a youth bulge will have a profound influence on a country’s stability.