Youth Exclusion in Yemen: Tackling the Twin Deficits of Human Development and Natural Resources
Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East region and one of the poorest in the world. Its population, already overwhelmingly young, is expanding rapidly, creating an explosion in the number of youth aged 15 to 29. A large youth population can provide the ideas and manpower necessary to foster economic growth and stimulate social development— but only if adequate resources and institutions are in place to help them do so. With a dwindling supply of natural resources, low levels of human development, high levels of poverty, and policies and institutions that work against youth instead of for them, Yemen faces signifi cant challenges in helping youth reach their full potential.
The situation in Yemen is particularly challenging because of the twin defi cits that the country faces in both human development and natural resources. Yemen ranks 138th out of 179 countries and territories on the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index and 148th on combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment (UNDP 2008). Yemen also faces one of the largest gender gaps in human development in the world. For instance, in gross primary enrollment rates it ranks as the country with the fi fth largest gender gap in the world (UNDP 2007). These human development challenges are compounded by severe limits on essential natural resources, such as water and arable land, for a rapidly growing population that is still predominantly rural.
In this paper, we identify processes through which many Yemeni youth are excluded from the opportunity to become productive adults and positive contributors to society. We set forth the idea that many youth face social exclusion, whereby they are cut off from the resources and institutions that could assist them in their transition to adulthood. We fi nd that youth exclusion in Yemen is highly gendered and regionalized. Females and rural residents are much more likely to be excluded than males and urban residents. Youth exclusion in Yemen is multi-faceted: no single axis of exclusion can fully explain the processes by which youth are excluded. Progress in assisting youth through one pathway will not ensure that youth are not excluded in other pathways. Exclusion is also interdependent: exclusion manifested during early stages of the transition can reinforce exclusion at later stages. For example, youth who receive inadequate schooling have trouble fi nding paid work, which can thereby limit their ability to purchase housing, get married and become independent adults.
In this paper, we use the life cycle approach to identify the pathways through which youth are excluded, focusing on processes of exclusion in educational attainment, livelihood and family formation. The structure of this paper is as follows: the study starts by analyzing the context of youth exclusion, followed by a detailed outline of the aforementioned life cycle stages. The study then concludes by discussing policies that affect youth and by recommending ways for policymakers to promote youth inclusion in the future. Yemen’s twin defi cits in human development and natural resources underscore the urgent need for greater development assistance to Yemen.