National Human Development Report 2014: Building for tomorrow: Including youth in Mongolia's Development

Context and Background

Mongolian version

In Mongolia, as elsewhere, youth are a major human resource for development and effective agents of positive social change. They aspire to full and productive lives as they move from education to work, responsible citizenship, marriage and the establishment of independent households. How well they make these transitions  depends upon whether and how well they are integrated in the country’s development process.

Mongolian economy has grown rapidly, on average at more than 9% in the last decade, on the back of high global prices for minerals.1 With a per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of USD 2,3202 Mongolia is classified as a lower‐middle income country.

At the same time, there is persistent poverty,3 growing income inequality, widening of urban‐rural disparities, and demographic and social changes that can have a far‐reaching impact on the country’s youth. Rural‐to‐urban migration is a key livelihood strategy for most households and two‐third of the country’s population resides in urban areas with more than 40% in Ulaanbaatar city.4 Migrants constitute almost one‐third of the total population in Ulaanbaatar.

In Mongolia, 58% of the population is below the age of 30 with the youth (15‐24 years) making up 21% of the total population. With almost universal literacy,6 high enrolment in tertiary education7 and extensive access to communication technology,8 Mongolia’s youth is urban, literate and aware. Yet, they face a number of challenges such as:

Limited employment opportunities – Nearly 25% of the youth are unemployed9 with very different manifestations in rural and urban areas. But youth unemployment is essentially an urban phenomenon.10 The mining sector which is the main engine of growth, contributes 23% to the GDP. But the mining sector’s share of total employment is a minimal 3%.

Lack of relevant skills for employment – Globally, tertiary education is an important determinant of earnings. But much of the rapid expansion in tertiary education in Mongolia in recent years has been of low cost and low quality, producing ill‐prepared graduates unable to find jobs.11  There is an average time‐lag of two and a half years between leaving school and entering work for the first time.12 Young people with only vocational education have fewer job opportunities and lower wages13 suggesting the need to upgrade curricula to the new technical and productive needs of a modern economy.

Weakening family and social support systems – An increasing number of young people are moving to Ulaanbaatar and other urban centres, or migrating to countries with greater job opportunities. This separates them from their families and social support networks, leading to its own set of issues. Further, in spite of a high level of familiarity and usage of ICT, less than one‐third of the young have comprehensive knowledge about HIV prevention. Mongolia is still a low HIV/AIDS prevalence country but of the people infected, 22% are in the age group 15‐24 years.

However, there is little attention to address these and other challenges faced by the youth in a comprehensive way, and channel their energies to contribute towards meeting Mongolia’s development goals.

The Government is keen to develop a youth policy to harness the ideals, enthusiasm, and creativity of the youth, and enable them to develop freely their potential and gain access to opportunities in an equitable way.

The NHDR on Youth will help spur public debate, enable different groups to articulate their views, mobilize support for action and change, and build national awareness and consensus on issues of relevance to youth.

Analytical Framework and Thematic Focus

Mongolia has witnessed rapid economic growth in recent years which while necessary, is not sufficient for achieving inclusive human development. Expanding choices and opportunities for the youth for advancing Mongolia towards a diversified knowledge‐based economy, requires greater focus, coordination and investment of resources in the country’s youth.

Young people differ from other demographic groups, exhibiting different social and political behavior, attitudes, approach to mobility and receptivity to change. They are a major human resource for development for any country and effective agents of positive social change.

How well the youth make such a contribution and become responsible and productive citizens making informed choices depends upon whether and how well they are integrated in the country’s development process, as beneficiaries but more so as active participants. This can be done by both developing youth capacities as well as creating an enabling environment by designing suitable policies.

The central premise of the NHDR is that in spite of enormous potential, the youth in Mongolia face numerous challenges which constrain their ability to contribute to country’s development.

The NHDR uses Amartya Sen’s capability approach to analyse the issues affecting the youth, identify constraints, and analyse possible approaches to ensure that the youth achieve “the outcomes they value and have reason to value”.15 According to the capability approach, the young can be deprived of such capabilities in many ways such as through lack of awareness, suitable government policies, credit, or the right incentives.

The NHDR will examine how the youth in Mongolia can live long, healthy, productive and creative lives so as to be able to the country’s overall development. For this, the youth need to build their human capital, improve their long‐term productivity, improve financial, emotional and civil security, and strengthen their political participation and civic engagement. The key determinants of each are discussed below:

  • Building human capital of the youth requires increasing young peoples’ access to quality education, health services, and social protection as well as creating awareness and encouraging adoption of a healthy lifestyle (that is, reduce consumption of tobacco, alcohol, drugs and avoid risky sexual behavior);
  • Increasing Opportunities requires skill enhancement of the youth through access to vocational and life skills’ education, and increased access to job opportunities;
  • Improving Security by improving young peoples’ emotional security (where the youth have a supportive family environment free from domestic violence); financial security (providing easy access to credit to self‐employed youth); and civil security (with reduced prospect of civil conflict, crime, or violence); and
  • Empowering the youth by encouraging their participation in youth groups and opportunities for political participation and civic engagement through creating an enabling environment with supportive policies, increased commitment and adequate resources.

The report will be structured around these four ‘thematic pillars’, and within each ‘pillar’ the analysis will focus on three key policy relevant questions:

  • What is the current state of access for the youth – across provinces and across gender?
  • What challenges do the youth face in different spheres?
  • What should be done to support youth development and who should do that – the state, market, family, or the young themselves?

The NHDR will review the elements within each thematic pillar to identify the constraints and assess what can be done to make Mongolia’s development trajectory more ‘youth‐friendly’.

The analytical structure of the report is depicted in the form of a 4 x 3 matrix below.

The report recognizes that all activities cannot be undertaken by the Government alone. A key contribution of the report will be to examine the respective roles played by other institutions such as the market, the community and the family in promoting the inclusion of the youth in the country’s development process.