This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Yemen's Youth Bulge

Yemen has the highest fertility level of any country outside of sub-Saharan Africa, with women having an average of 4.9 children each. Mortality is below the world average, but its life expectancy of 63 for women and 61 for men is high enough that slightly more than 2 children each would still be quite close to replacement level. The result is, predictably, high rates of population growth and a very high proportion of people at the young ages. I've talked before about the fact that the Yemeni government seems to understand this, at least in the abstract, yet it seems that little is being done about it. Since Yemen is increasingly believed to be a staging ground for terrorism, with a strong Al-Qaeda presence in the country, this demographic situation is one that is not going to end well unless something is done soon. Thanks to Abu Daoud for sending me a link to a recent article published on the YemenTimes website (which I didn't otherwise know existed) that lays out some of these concerns:
The high rate of population growth is both unplanned and inconsistent with Yemen's bleak economic prospects. Failure to manage the youth bulge bomb means higher rates of youth unemployment. 
Unemployment in Yemen has been high since the return of millions of workers, in particular from Saudi Arabia, after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Unemployment in 2010 was 14.6 percent, and by 2011 it had risen to 29 percent. This aggravates an already bad situation which is further compounded by a lack of educational infrastructure. University enrollments have grown from 35,000 in 1991 to nearly 300,000 in 2010. In short, the education sector and the job market are in a dire state and unemployed young graduates are pessimistic about their future.
These are exactly the issues that Debbie Fugate and I laid out in our book on the Youth Bulge. As we noted, the youth bulge can be an opportunity, but in the Yemeni case it is a huge challenge. A lot of unemployed males in a sexist, potentially radicalized society, is not a good thing, as the authors of the article note:
Yemen’s faltering economy coupled with its youth bulge bomb poses a direct threat to Yemen’s and to regional stability. Unemployed and disenfranchised youth are perfect targets for AQAP for radicalization and are also vulnerable to general lawlessness.
The potential solutions seem obvious--more family planning, more education and especially more jobs. But it is not at all clear where the resources will come from to help with this. 

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