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Investing in young rural people for sustainable and equitable development IFAD Page 01The numbers of young people in many developing countries today are at unprecedented highs, in both absolute and proportionate terms. This potentially gives rise to a demographic dividend, an opportunity for rapid growth and development brought about by a bulge in a nation’s working age population. It also brings new challenges for countries in providing decent work and education for these young people, with serious risks in terms of political and social instability if the potential of these youthful cohorts is not captured.

In most developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia, a significant share of young people lives in rural settlements. As pressures on food production systems increase, rural economies diversify and become more integrated with larger towns and cities and the pace of urbanization accelerates, the productive roles of these young people will have important consequences for development.

Migration potentially opens up opportunities for young people to access decent work and education, and it will be a key part of the structural transformation needed to bring about economic development. At the same time, an exodus of young people from rural areas could deprive these communities of their most dynamic and energetic members. The migration process itself brings new challenges and risks as well as opportunities for young people. Taking advantage of these opportunities while minimizing the risks must be a priority area for development policy and planning.