• This data sheet also in French and Spanish.

While girls and boys are enrolling in secondary school in greater numbers than ever before and early marriage is on the decline, many young people across the world still face daunting threats to their well-being, according to PRB’s The World’s Youth 2006 Data Sheet.

The datasheet, which provides a comprehensive portrait of the well-being of youth (people ages 10-24) across the globe, shows that many of these young people are at great risk for health problems ranging from sexually transmitted infections to complications from smoking.

Just a minority of young people can correctly identify two ways to avoid getting HIV/AIDS, and adolescents are less likely than young adults worldwide to use contraceptives—including only 4 percent of women ages 15-19 in Burkina Faso and 14 percent in Vietnam. Meanwhile, youth in developing countries continue to use tobacco products at increasing rates: Approximately one in every five males ages 13 to 15 in southern Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia already smoke.

Early marriage and childbirth also remain a concern. More than 25 percent of women in the poorest regions of the world have had a child by age 18. And while young women in developing countries are less likely to marry early compared with their mothers, child marriage—a practice contrary to international conventions on women’s and children’s rights—is still widespread in regions ranging from Southeast Asia to the Caribbean and Central America.

The news is better for youth education. The gap between boys’ and girls’ school enrollments has narrowed in the last decade as girls’ enrollments have risen throughout the developing world since 1990. (Girls still face an enrollment gap in parts of South Asia, western Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.) And the labor force participation of both boys and girls ages 15 to 19 continues to decline worldwide, reflecting an increase in the numbers of those staying in school.

Prepared by PRB staff members Lori Ashford, Donna Clifton, and Toshiko Kaneda, the World’s Youth 2006 Data Sheet contains indicators such as the current and projected size of youth populations as well as measurements of their educational enrollments, labor force participation, marriage and fertility, health behaviors, and use of health services. Some of its other findings include:

  • More than one in every four persons in the world are youth.
  • Nearly 70 percent of youth live in less developed countries.
  • In these countries, the number of youth will continue to rise for another 30 years, while in more developed countries, both the proportion and number of youth are projected to fall, creating a different set of economic and social challenges.