I f there is any resource in which Pacific Island Countries can be certain of achieving sustainability and continuous socio-economic gain, it is its youth cohort. The key however is significant and serious investment in the fulfillment of their potential as game changers, and if we are to reap the benefits of this demographic dividend. A total of 717 million young people aged 15 to 24 live in the Asia-Pacific region, comprising 60 per cent of the world’s youth.
Among Pacific island nations, youth (15-24 years) populations range from 14 per cent of the population in Palau to 22 per cent in Federated States of Micronesia. Inclusive of Papua New Guinea (PNG), 11 of the 15 Pacific island countries’ covered in the recently-published Population and Development Profiles: Pacific Island Countries report a median age of 20 and 24 – this is the age at which exactly half the population is older and half is younger – in 2014. The high proportions of young people in a population are the direct result of high fertility rates which is the average number of children born per women; the higher the number of children born per woman, the higher the proportion of children in the population.
These children represent growth potential as they will become parents themselves and even if fertility rate fell, the sheer number of youth today means population growth will continue to be recorded for some time. In the Pacific, the proportion of population younger than 15 years of age are remarkably high, with most comprising a third of the total population for example the proportion of persons younger than 15 years in the Marshall Islands comprises 40 per cent of the total population. Implicit in figures like these are questions of socio-economic issues like employment opportunities.
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