Taking Off: Mexico’s Demographic Challenge

education - children poverty - EcuadorBoston Review, 1/10/2013

Mexico is going through crucial and unprecedented times. It may take off or it may collapse. And I do not exaggerate or mean this rhetorically. Never before has Mexico had so many young people: nearly 30 million men and women aged 15–29, representing 26.4 percent of the country’s population. They are what we call in Mexico the “demographic bonus,” at first considered a great opportunity to enhance the country’s growth and development, and now a threat to its existence.

Despite improvements in education—95 percent of the population has at least finished elementary school—and a relatively stable economy, most of these young adults are victims of the inequality and exclusion characteristic of Mexican society. In 2010, when the last census was taken in Mexico, 17.1 percent of the adolescents (15–17 years old) and 24.2 percent of the young adults living in Mexico did not go to school or have a job. Millions of them have been excluded from these key social institutions: learning and work. Young men and women, Mexico’s future, are being left without futures of their own.

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