There has never been a better time to invest in young people in developing countries. Those who are 12-24 years of age number 1.3 billion and make up the largest youth cohort in history.
They are, on average, more educated and healthier than generations before them. They represent a potentially stronger base on which to build in a world that is increasingly demanding more than basic skills.
Today's young people are the next generation of workers, entrepreneurs, parents, active citizens and leaders who have relatively fewer dependents because of lower birth rates. Countries need to seize this window of opportunity to invest in the future before the aging process closes it.
World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation discusses priorities for government action across five youth transitions that shape young people's human capital: learning, working, staying healthy, forming families, and excercising citizenship.
Within these transitions, priorities for investment vary across countries. The Report highlights three lenses that help assess priorities: expanding opportunities, enhancing capabilities, and providing second chances.
Expanding opportunities focuses on increasing the quality (not just quantity) of education, smoothing the transition to work, and providing young people with a platform for civic engagement.
Enhancing capabilities involves making young people aware of the consequences of their actions, especially consequences that will affect them much later in life; building their decision-making skills; and giving them the right incentives.
Providing second chances calls for helping young people recover from missed opportunities through remedial education, retraining, treatment, and rehabilitation.