From The Key Reporter of Phi Beta Kappa. See http://www.pbk.org/home/FocusNews.aspx?id=683
Large Cohorts of Educated, Underemployed Youth
By Jack A. Goldstone
As the past month’s events in Tunisia and Egypt have shown, the potential for radical change remains strong in the world – often in some of the places where it was least expected. Both countries had stable authoritarian regimes that were allied with Europe and the United States and faced no significant organized internal opposition. Yet both were rocked by massive protests by young, underemployed youth. Indeed, the trigger for all of these events was the tragic death of an unemployed college graduate in Tunisia who set himself on fire in frustration after police confiscated the vegetable cart he was using to try to eke out a living.
Although population growth has been slowing down in the developing world, many countries still are dealing with the legacy of earlier high growth rates in the late 1980s and 1990s, trends that produced very large cohorts of youth that are just now in their teens and twenties. In Egypt and Tunisia, 25 to 30 percent of all adults over age 15 today are between 15 and 24 years old. This is also true in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and Syria.
These youth have aspirations that have been fed by education, for high school and university education have expanded greatly in the last two decades throughout the developing world. Yet in too many countries, the great potential of these youth has remained unrealized because corruption and lack of security mean that jobs have not followed. Rather, the benefits of economic growth have gone to small coteries of well-connected elites, often the families of ruling politicians and military officers, while vast numbers of youth with big ideas and hopes have been sidelined.
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