By Claudio Providas, UNDP Timor-Leste Country Director
Timor-Leste is one of the youngest countries in the world with 74 per cent of the population aged under 35, making it the second youngest nation in the Asia-Pacific region after Afghanistan and 15th youngest globally. Young people are playing an extremely important role in the country’s developing building a culture of peace and social cohesion, they will be key to the achievement of its future development aspirations.
Timor-Leste is soon entering a unique window of a demographic opportunity with potential for rapid economic and human development gains given that the relevant strategies, policies and decisions are made. While many countries are challenged by their aging populations, Timor-Leste, can translate its blessing into socio-economic dividends by unlocking the potential of its youthful population. Unless more targeted and quality investments are made now in health, education and the economy, Timor-Leste may miss out on this once off opportunity to unleash its development potential over the next few decades.
This report is the outcome of a two-year collaboration between the UNDP, the Government of Timor-Leste and Flinders University, Australia. The report measures the subjective well-being of youth aged 15 to 34 across eight aspects of well-being based on a nation-wide survey. On the promising side, it finds that three quarters of youth across Timor-Leste perceive themselves to lead healthy and satisfactory lives overall. However, it also finds that more than 80 percent of youth feel deprivations in education and community vitality aspects of life.
Current investments in education and training result in a large pool of idle youth who feel unprepared for and lack the skills required to access decent employment. This is more so for adolescent girls and young women who are further disadvantaged in participating in the economy and education fully due to gender roles.
The country’s economy is still dependent on oil income, and transitioning successfully from conflict to development, building its institutions and strengthening its democracy while trying to diversify the economy and attract investments. Timor-Leste is also a very young country, less than 2 decades old and certainly has made a considerable effort to deliver on its national development plan and the SDGs.
The report recommends allocating 25 per cent of the state budget to education and skills development and calls for a number of reforms for better quality education and the transformation of economically inactive youth into entrepreneurs in agriculture, tourism and other sectors of the economy that show potential for growth.
Understanding the needs and addressing the perceptions of youth will probably play and important role in meeting its ambition to attain middle human development by the year 2030.