This section will discuss the current challenges that the Afghan youth are attempting to navigate through on their way to developing a stable and prosperous country. Presently the largest barrier in Afghanistan is a disproportionately large youth population emerging in tandem with a devastating level of unemployment. Through-out the next pages, please consider how the population demographics, location, and lack of steady employment opportunities have influenced the youth of Afghanistan and their subsequent view that, “except what God determines for you…it is education that can bring changes in your life” (Holland, 2014, p. 244).
Afghanistan’s population is growing at an alarmingly fast rate of 2.8% a year. It is, according to a 2011 Population Reference Bureau report, the world’s fastest growing country. The phenomenon currently taking place in Afghanistan is called a “youth bulge” and refers to when the younger population is significantly larger than the older population, with the ages of 15 to 24 surpassing the total adult population by at least 20 percent (Gaan, 2015; Lavender, 2011). According to the CIA Fact book, 64.2% of the Afghan population is 24 or younger (Central Intelligence Agency, 2014). Similar situations in developing countries have traditionally resulted in an increased risk of civil war and growing civil unrest in response to increased competition for employment. In fact, 60 out of the 67 countries with disproportionately large youth populations are now experiencing civil unrest. While this youth bulge is a global issue with far reaching implications, it is mostly strongly felt in less developed countries. Currently, 90% of the all children under ten live in developing countries (Gaan, 2015). However, recent studies suggest that internal conflicts of a country cannot be blamed solely on the existence of a majority youth population. The political and economic status of a country plays a more significant role in determining whether or not a disproportionately large youth population leads to social upheaval than the population’s existence alone (Lavender, 2011).
Currently the increased youth population is facing several challenges. The Afghan economy is not growing fast enough to employ the 400,000 individuals who enter the labor market yearly (Office of the Deputy Ministry of Youth Affairs, 2013). Traditional modes of employment are not easily accessible to all Afghan youth with only 49% of males and 18% of females being literate. Unemployment figures for the country vary between a staggering 35% and 40%, which restricts growth and delays stabilization, creating an uncertain future for Afghan youth. Frequently education alone is providing students with the means to improve their lives, though even that may not be enough (Central Intelligence Agency, 2014; Lavender, 2011). According to Wasel Nur Mohmand, the deputy Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, nine million Afghans are living on approximately one dollar a day. The situation is more dire in rural areas where 36% of the population is living below the poverty line, compared to the 29% in urban areas (Gaan, 2015). Unemployment and the subsequent financial difficulties it creates fosters conflict within families, weakening those relationships. It encourages individuals desperate for some form of financial security to turn to illicit activities such as the drug trade and participation in the Taliban. The impact this has on young women is particularly strong as societal restrictions hinder their ability to participate fully in the society by entering the workforce and providing for their family. Many are forced to depend on their husbands or other male relatives for assistance while being unable to use their own skills outside of domestic responsibilities to contribute to family funds.