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One-fifth of Timor-Leste youth without education, jobs

Nearly half of the people in the Catholic-majority nation still live in poverty

Young people in Timor-Leste observe the International Youth Day in 2018. A recent World Bank-sponsored report found nearly 20 percent of the nation's youth do not study or work due to lack of basic services

Young people in Timor-Leste observe the International Youth Day in 2018. A recent World Bank-sponsored report found nearly 20 percent of the nation's youth do not study or work due to lack of basic services. (Photo by Roderick T.J. Buiskool/UNFPA)

Published: November 15, 2023 10:57 AM GMT

Updated: November 15, 2023 11:36 AM GMT

About 20 percent of young people in Timor-Leste do not study or work due to lack of education, limitations in healthcare provision and ineffective social protection, according to a report from the World Bank (WB). 

“Twenty percent of young Timorese between the ages of 15 and 24 do not study or work, a rate that has not decreased since 2010, caused by below-average education, limitations in the provision of health services and ineffective social protection during childhood and adolescence,” says the human capital report of the WB, Macau’s Portuguese-language news site, Ponto Final, reported on Nov. 15.

The report states that the “average school attendance of just 6.3 years is symptomatic of poor learning results.”

The overcrowding of classrooms, as well as the lack of teachers and skills, has resulted in distortions in relation to age and year of school attendance, a 20 percent dropout rate and lack of motivation, it found.

“Social protection services, which aim to encourage school attendance, face considerable failures and have variable success rates. This is worsened by significant barriers to accessing essential health services,” the report highlighted.

It also found a lack of healthcare services for women. Girls and women under 20 “sometimes do not have access to reproductive health services” and “only 19 percent of sexually active single women” use contraception, it said.

In 2021, the unemployment rate was as high as 14 percent, mainly due to “weak professional training systems and exacerbated by low demand for labor in the private sector.” 

“The supply of workers with university education is twice the demand in the labor market, but unevenly distributed between sectors, with the supply of foreign labor filling critical gaps,” highlights the report.

The report found that 72 percent of the employed population works in the informal sector, which “makes the majority of workers in Timor-Leste particularly vulnerable to the labor crisis,” especially because the “contributory pension system covers only 34 percent of the workforce and faces sustainability issues.”

“The social protection system also does not offer unemployment benefits, which are essential for maintaining livelihoods during periods of unemployment,” it stated.

“Timor-Leste needs a diversified economy that allows the creation of jobs in a resilient private sector, which complements Government expenses, supported by a better targeted social protection system,” the report added.

A Portuguese colony from 1769-1975, Timor-Leste was under Indonesian occupation from 1975-1999.

Indonesian rule was marked by violence and brutality from the military and military-backed militia forces as Timorese rebels waged an armed struggle for independence. A UN-sponsored act in 1999 recognized the nation as a sovereign state.

Despite being rich in mineral resources including gas and oil reserves, the Catholic-majority nation of about 1.3 million is one of the world’s poorest countries with nearly half of the population classified as poor, according to WB.

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