In our previous blogs we’ve spoken about a whole host of topics realted to elections and the voting process. In today’s blog however, we’ll take a break from these subjects and instead talk about two related concepts: youth bulge and democracy.
Let’s first start by understanding what the term “youth bulge” means. The youth bulge is a usual phenomenon in many growing nations, and in particular, in the least developed countries. To explain it in simple words, youth bulge refers to a point in a country’s history where the population of young people (i.e. 24 years or below) stands in majority. Thus, a country that is experiencing a youth bulge will typically have a large share of the population comprising of children and young adults.
Is this good news or bad news? Well, depending on how a country plans – or does not plan – to utilize the high levels of energy associated with young people is what ultimately decides whether a youth budlge should be read as a good or a bad news.
Let’s put it this way: imagine yourself in a room full of children. Now we all know that most children all over the world have three important charectaristics, i.e. they have a lot of energy, are curious and are more suseptable to learning new things. Thus, if we plan a day of interesting activities for these children, their energy can be diverted towards engaging in those tasks and their curiosity will be directed towards learning productive things all day. However, if we just leave them unattended for even a few hours the room is likely to paint a picture of absolute chaos!
This same example is relevant when we discuss a youth bulge, i.e. unless proper planning goes into deciding the best possible ways to nurture the energy and learning tangent of young people, this same youth can drive a country into conflict and civil strife.
Recent empirical studies suggest that youth bulges are associated with an increased risk of violence. However, historical examples of the Asian Tiger states also show that a country can reduce this risk through the provision of opportunities for young people, primarily by providing education. The level of secondary education especially appears to have a clearly pacifying effect on large youth bulges.
While expanding opportunities for education generally pacify youth, however it is equally important to ensure that with expanding opportunities for education, the prospect of employment opportunities also needs to be expanded or otherwise the unemployed youth will become a reason for instability creating a law and order situation.
Now what does all this discussion have to do with democracy? The answer is rather simple! Countries that have both youth bulges and unstable political regimes are likely to enter into long-term conflict as political instability will not allow for policies and planning to effectively utilize the potential of the young population and in the absence of such planning the alienated youth is likely to take justice into its own hands. Most African states are evidence of this hypothesis.
On the other hand, sustainable democracy allows the sitting government to make long-term plans for development that will inevitably take into account such indicators as health, education and livelihood – all of which will then contribute towards harnessing the energies of its young people.
Also, unlike other systems of governance such as monarchy or dictatorship, elections are held every few years in a democratic state, thus maintaining a constant pressure on the sitting government to offer its citizens a better standard of living or face the risk of being voted out. This pressure ensures that governments do not become lazy or take their powers for granted.
Accordingly, a democratic government ensures that development initiatives remain a priority to garner the goodwill of the masses. This in turn ensures that huge projects associated with better education, health and employment generation are constantly being introduced thus ensuring that on one hand the young people are kept engaged through education and on the other hand they become contributers towards development once they grow older.
Former UN Secretary General, Mr. Kofi Annan, summarized this whole phenomenon perfectly when he said, “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline.”

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