More than half the world’s young people live in Asia and the Pacific. This huge population of young people will be critical in shaping the future of the region. The quality of the healthcare, education, jobs and environment these young people experience will determine the region’s prosperity. The Asian Development Bank (ADB), working closely with governments and other partners, has decided to direct its activities in support of youth in Asia and the Pacific in three areas: employment, the environment, and health.
In Asia and the Pacific, millions of young people find themselves in the job market without the skills they need to be successful and to help their countries develop. There are an estimated 357.7 million young people worldwide who are not employed, in school or undergoing training, according to the World Economic Forum. Of these, 62 percent are in South Asia or East Asia.
More than half a billion young people in developing countries are underemployed, meaning they have some type of job, but often part-time, unskilled and not making enough to earn a living. Young women are particularly hard hit. The Asia and Pacific region loses an estimated $89 billion a year due to limited access by women and girls to education and employment, according to the United Nations.
To help address these issues, ADB has invested $8.2 billion in the last four decades to increase access to education and training and help prepare young people to work in good jobs. ADB is working with countries in Asia and the Pacific to combine education and technical training with on-the-job and real work experiences.
The region does not have enough natural resources to sustain its population unless they are carefully managed. According to the ADB publication, Environment Program: Greening Growth in Asia and the Pacific, the region hosts 58 percent of the world’s population but only 20 percent of its land. Helping people in Asia and the Pacific develop their countries and escape from poverty will not be possible without addressing the management of natural resources.
Of particular importance is addressing the causes and impact of climate change, which most affect women and the poor. Those who are young now are likely to bear the brunt of climate change in their adult lives as impacts worsen. Asia’s environmental problems include severe air and water pollution: the unwanted byproducts of the industrial and urban development that is promoting growth.
According to the World Health Organization, seven million people across the world died prematurely as a result of air pollution in 2012. In many parts of Asia and the Pacific, clean water is also becoming scarce. Particularly during dry seasons, parts of South Asia, the northwestern part of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Mongolia and other areas are particularly hard hit. The widespread loss of forest and the degradation of soil is also a problem in many parts of Asia. ADB recognizes that concerted regional action is needed to combat climate change and pollution.
Health is a basic human right and it is essential to all aspects of development. Good health improves learning, worker productivity, and income. Though Asia has experienced explosive economic growth in recent years, its investment in public health has lagged. Many people in the region find themselves in poverty due to personal and family health expenses.
Diseases control and prevention is another issue of major concern, as the region is more integrated and people and goods move more freely across borders. There are an estimated 36 million malaria cases in the Asia and Pacific region, causing 49,000 deaths per year. In addition, about 5 million live with HIV/AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.
Though the Asia and Pacific region is generally on track to achieve some of the key Millennium Development Goals, this is not the case for reducing malnutrition and maternal mortality. The increasingly prosperous region is also grappling with non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
ADB is working to improve health in Asia and the Pacific by supporting better governance and spending, improving water and sanitation, and promoting regional collaboration to control communicable diseases.
ADB is supporting programs that improve the health impact of infrastructure operations, improving economic governance and public spending, and partnering for regional public goods and knowledge management.
ADB works closely with specialized agencies with technical expertise in health, as well as other development partners with complementary technical skills, and at the request of its developing member countries.
ADB supports young people in Asia and the Pacific by focusing on employment, the environment and health. This is part of a broader strategy to emphasize inclusiveness, build resilience, and strengthen support for middle-income countries, according to Strategy 2020, ADB’s long-term strategic framework.
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