A Comparative History of Age-Structure and Social Transitions Among Asian Youth
Peter Xenos and Midea Kabamalan
East-West Center Working Papers, Population Series, No. 110
Honolulu: East-West Center
The youth expansion or youth bulge is an important political and policy issue in Asia as in other regions of the world, but the phenomenon is subject to a good deal of misunderstanding and misplaced emphasis. Taking the long view, this paper highlights the significant magnitude but temporary character of the youth bulge.
A cross-national comparison shows Asian societies today in all stages of demographic and youth transitions. The authors argue that the absolute numbers of youth should take second place in policy deliberations to the more important element of social change and the changing social composition of the youth population. Recent Asian history has seen a unique confluence of demographic and social changes.
Combining UN-estimated national population data for 1950–1990 with UN population projections through 2025 gives an historical perspective on the youth demographic transition in 17 Asian countries. The paper links these demographic data with reconstructions and projections of selected aspects of social transformation among youth over the same timespan. Analysis reveals a combination of a demographic youth bulge and a concurrent transformation in the social composition of youth that the authors label the "youth transition." This conujunction of demographic and social change is unique in history, as highlighted by contrast with European experience many decades earlier.