By Faranak Bakhtiari

World Youth Day: can Iran meet growing youth population’s needs?

August 12, 2020 - 19:14

TEHRAN – While Iran faced a population growth rate of less than one percent for the first time, raising concerns of losing the demographic window of opportunity and insisting on implementation of population growth policies, the question arises that whether the country is capable to meet the needs of its young population growth?

Being a middle-income country, Iran is experiencing an increasingly large young population, as over 60 percent of the whole country’s 80 million population is under 30 years old.

To maximize the potential for seizing the opportunity of demographic dividend, factors such as investment in education, health, and job generation for youth are recommended.

However, increasing the population requires a capability to address the needs of a young nation which can be fulfilled with various indicators, such as social and economic development, development of recreational and educational facilities, increasing the share of young people in managerial positions and among decision-makers, providing the conditions for the growth and prosperity of the youth.

Here, the question comes up that is the country able to develop the mentioned factors for the next 3 decades to experience a young population growth?

Annually, International Youth Day is observed on August 12, which was first designated by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.

The theme for 2020 is ‘Youth Engagement for Global Action’, and this has never been of more significance, than during the current conditions. The theme seeks to shed light on “the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national, and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes.” It highlights the importance of the influence that youth can have over where the future is headed and how their political and social involvement can aid in creating better, more sustainable policies for the world as a whole.

Zero population growth within next century

Nicholas Eberstadt, the Henry Wendt Chair in Political Economy at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) wrote in an article earlier in July that the fertility rate in Iran has dropped by 70 percent over the past 30 years, which has been the highest decline in human history.

Melinda Gates, an American philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, also wrote on her Twitter account that “The fastest decrease in the rate of childbearing per woman in the history of the world has happened in Iran!”

Seyed Hamed Barakati, deputy health minister for family and school population, said in May that Iran’s population growth rate has decreased to less than one percent for the first time over the past four decades.

At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution (in 1979), the country's population grew by 2.5 percent annually, however, suddenly, population growth reached about 1.5 percent in the 1980s, he highlighted.

According to the data released by the National Organization for Civil Registration, comparing past three years shows some 1,196,134 infants were born in the country whose births were registered last year, while 1,366,509 births occurred a year before it, and 1,487,913 births have been recorded in the Iranian calendar year 1396 (March 2017-March 2018), a difference of roughly over 120,000 per year.

Childbearing incentives were inefficient

Some 14 policies to support childbearing and the family were announced by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in [the Iranian calendar year] 1389 (March 2014-March 2015) when he stressed that social, cultural and economic development should be done in accordance with these general policies to support families.

Kimia Mohammadzadeh, a member of the working group for women's and family at the independent association of the University of Tehran, told Mehr news agency that thus, instead of considering family support and youth marriage, policymakers adopt policies that lead to delays in marriage and family formation.

Childbearing, which should be a public issue, became an inefficient policy due to lack of follow-up, she said.

Policies like providing inexpensive houses for the youth, increasing monthly subsidies, fund provision for reducing infertility, promotion of childbearing culture through media, and granting incentives and supportive plans all remained incomplete, she lamented.

“Over the past two years, the marriage rate has been declining by 8 percent annually. With this trend, we will be one of the oldest countries in the world in the next 30 years, and this is dangerous in all scientific, social, cultural and economic fields,” Barakati also told IRNA.

Youth’s share in management, decision-making 

Two years ago, members of the Majlis (Iranian parliament) passed a law banning the employment of retirees.

In fact, it was decided to remind once again the importance of youthfulness and the use of young people in running the country, trusting the youth for executive affairs, however, how much this issue has taken practical form in different sectors so far should be announced by official institutions.

Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli Minister of Interior has stated in his latest speech that Youth’s share in a managerial position is on the agenda; while the average age of managers in the ministry has decreased by only two to three years.

This statistic means that a quarter of the country's young population in decision-making positions is quite absent. However, if this young population is not exposed to practical empowerment, they will certainly face challenges in the future and will not be able to use the existing opportunities for growth and lose the opportunity in management and decision making.

Currently, there are 3,000 active youth organizations in the country, which is considered an important task, Rahmani-Fazli said, adding, Iran is a young country and has many capacities that should be used effectively.

In appointing young managers in the Ministry of Interior, we considered two categories; first, to employ younger managers, so that today the average age of our governors is 40 to 42 years, on the other hand, 16 women were elected as deputy governors, he stated.

Youth unemployment rate at 24.5%

The unemployment rate for young people aging 15-24 in Iran stood at 24.5 percent in the spring, according to the latest statistics of the Statistical Center of Iran.

In addition, 16.7 percent of the active population aged 15 to 35 were unemployed during the spring.

Last year’s total employed population was at 24.27 million, nearly 430,000 more than the year before.

According to statistics, the service sector has the largest share of employment with 49.7 percent, then comes to the industrial and agriculture with a share of 31.8 and 18.6 percent, respectively.

It might be the time that the officials and policymakers to start taking steps toward supporting the youth to start their own businesses and practice fund provision for small businesses.

Young people driving force for economy

It is necessary to address the needs of the youth because of their important role in the development of society. Young people’s role is essential and valued in terms of the driving force that runs the economy of the country. Young people also pass on values and cultural heritage to the next generation.

In fact, the improvement of social factors for young people maximizes its functions and positive social consequences such as political, economic, and public participation, and their lack of enjoyment will have its harms and negative consequences.

Given the role of the young population as an investment for development, the country needs to pay more attention to youth in all aspects.

Otherwise, Iran will soon lose the demographic window of opportunity and its working-age population starts to shrink and face an old population in less than 30 years.