Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations in the world, with two-thirds of the population being below the age of 25. With the right skills and opportunities, young Afghans have the potential to be a source of social progress, entrepreneurship, and economic growth for their country. However, current data point to underdevelopment and underutilization of Afghan youth’s human capital. Most young Afghans will not complete secondary school, and 42 percent of people ages 15–24 are not in education, employment or training (NEET) with figures higher for women at 68 percent. An ongoing context of fragility exacerbates the challenges faced by young Afghans. Apart from imposing a tremendous human cost in terms of injury, displacement, and psychosocial issues, conflict has weakened public institutions and by extension the services to youth—particularly in the harder-to-reach rural areas. This context of fragility has also impeded and (recently slowed) Afghanistan’s economic development. Current forecasts indicate that the economy will at best absorb half of the 400,000 new workers predicted to enter the domestic labor market annually over the next decade.
In this context, fostering the economic and social inclusion of Afghan youth presents a distinct development challenge. In recent years, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) and other development partners have invested in several initiatives to bolster the inclusion of youth. Many of these initiatives have focused on the expansion of education and livelihood opportunities for youth or their communities. A continuing concern is how to effectively package and implement programs in ways that reach broader segments of youth, that resonate with them and meet their demands, and that generate benefits for themselves and their communities. The importance of meeting this challenge extends beyond economic gains, and toward fostering well-being and social cohesion. There is strong evidence that social exclusion and violence can increase in the context of youth bulges and limited economic opportunities.
This study analyses pathways to youth inclusion in Afghanistan. The findings are intended to inform the work of the GoIRA and relevant stakeholders working on the youth agenda in Afghanistan. Development interventions targeting Afghan youth must recognize the full range of their economic, education, social, and psychological needs through a holistic development approach. Crucially, they must be developed through engagements with youth themselves. Accordingly, this study is framed around two objectives:
Understanding Pathways to Youth Inclusion. Through conversations with youth, this study seeks to understand youth’s aspirations, the terms on which they wish to be included, and what they view as the main barriers and enablers to their inclusion. Special attention is paid to the different social contexts in which youth live, between provinces and across urban and rural areas.
Assessing the Youth Sub-Committees (YSCs) under the Citizens’ Charter National Priority Program (CCNPP). The GoIRA has initiated the CCNPP to improve the delivery of core infrastructure and social services to participating communities in Afghanistan, through strengthened Community Development Councils (CDCs). There is current interest in understanding if and how CDCs can be utilized to expand youth programming, specifically through their 'YSCs’. Through conversations with YSC members and youth in their communities, this study aims to understand the institutional capacity and interest of YSCs to serve this purpose.
Findings are based on fieldwork commissioned in rural and urban districts of Nangarhar and Herat, across 14 CDCs. One hundred and ninety-six youth (both YSC and non-YSC members) were interviewed, along with community leaders and other local stakeholders.