Young people in Bhutan today live in a world very different from that known by their parents, or even their older siblings. Globalization, urbanization and new modes of mass and interpersonal communication have rapidly and radically changed the way young people interact with each other, with their families and with society as a whole. At the same time, many young Bhutanese who in the past would have followed family traditions are striking out on their own, leaving the rural areas for the towns and cities and finding themselves – with limited life experience, inadequate resources and decision-making skills – exposed to unfamiliar risks and challenges.

Bhutan has a very young population: more than half of the population is below the age of 25 years. The age group from 10 to 24 years, representing the adolescent-youth portion of the life cycle, constitutes about a third of the total population, with adolescents (those aged between 10 and 19) accounting for 23.7 per cent of the overall population (12.1 per cent males and 11.6 per cent females).

The ‘youth bulge’ is without doubt a major factor in the high youth unemployment rate. Persons below age 25 constitute about a fifth of the economically active population; youth accounted for nearly half of the total unemployed. The government recognizes that the growth in employment opportunities has not kept pace with the growth of the population, especially of the youth population. Likewise, the limited intake capacity in higher, tertiary and vocational education has contributed to the number of unemployed young people. One result of this combination of factors is that Bhutan’s young people are increasingly experimenting with risky behaviours such as substance and drug abuse and relatively high rates of unprotected sexual contact. Drug and alcohol abuse by young people have become one of Bhutan’s biggest concerns.


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