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Building a better world for our youth

Atty. Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II

IN celebration of International Youth Day on August 12, some organizations and governments brought issues of the youth front and center and celebrated the achievements and potentials of the youth as partners in nation-building. 

Our youths are, indeed, a powerful force as young people from the ages of 15 to 24 make up about 16 percent of the global population. Unfortunately, many of them are not able to fulfill their full potential nor contribute to society because of a host of issues like poverty, addiction, illness or instability (mental and physical), educational inequality, unequal access to opportunities, and many more. 

The cases of mass shootings in the US come to mind because, in some of these instances, very young attackers are involved in the crimes. There are many incidents of violence around the world happening every single day wherein young people are involved, either as victims or perpetrators. 

It is very important that every nation gives a voice to the youth so their issues are highlighted and acted upon, especially those that directly impact them like climate change and social justice. The youth have to be able to help shape the world’s response to these huge challenges, yet our systems are not built to accommodate these. 

Case in point, people under the age of 35 are rarely found in formal political positions. Public leadership for the youth needs to be encouraged. A WE Forum feature states that it is not enough for governments to aim to design public policies where youths have a stake in the decision-making process. 

Political participation and civic engagement have to be a part of an inclusive and enabling environment for today’s young people. Let us allow our youths to advocate for the changes they want to see and to help develop our environment and society so that it can effectively respond to their specific needs.

The economic environment does not appear to be very friendly to young people, too, especially those who are poor or marginalized like women, members of the LGBTQ community, migrant youths, etc. As the world faces economic challenges brought about by the war, inflation, and the pandemic, economic opportunities are now even harder to come by for most people, let alone young workers who often lack adequate experience or advanced education. 

It is not just the Philippines that is facing huge debts; the Institute of International Finance in 2021 stated that global debt reached a record of $303 million, the highest jump since World War II. 

What does this mean? As governments try to build funds for debt repayment, they will naturally reduce spending on certain items and these will likely include education, health care, and social protection. On the micro level, families will be forced to cut spending on important items like food and health care—which thousands of Filipino families are already doing. 

The government, of course, plays a big part in making sure that young people get equal access to economic opportunities. However, businesses or the private sector have an equally important role to play here. Creating job opportunities and supporting social entrepreneurship ecosystems are just two of the numerous steps the private sector can take to help create a youth-friendly business environment.

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