1. CONTEXT AND BACKGROUND
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.