1.8 million young people have nothing to do.
I read that in an op-ed by Julio Borges, and it sparks my curiosity. It comes from a survey carried out by the UCAB Youth Project that says 23% of Venezuelans between the ages of 15 and 29 neither study nor work, or in the words of Borges, “are not occupied.”
I go to the primary source, and sure enough, the number is what it is. But dig deeper and another drama surfaces: a large chunk of these (particularly in the 15-19 cohort) are young mothers, women who are taking care of their children.
True, roughly 10% of these kids don’t think it’s worth continuing their studies. Many are dropouts from some sort of school, and surely some of them are criminals. But it’s not like 1.8 million kids “are not occupied.” Surely, a man with quadruplets knows that taking care of kids does not mean you are “not occupied.”
I don’t want to minimize the drama our youth is facing. Many want to work, but cannot find meaningful work. Many more are caught in the trap of not being able to continue their studies, and not having any marketable skills for the work force.
But surely some of them are doing something, even if it means taking care of their kids, or someone else’s. This graph shows that, while 54% are indeed not doing anything, others are actively looking to get out of their situation.
In fact, some of the kids not doing anything are actually rich kids.
It’s important to get these things right – otherwise, we come across as manipulators of demographic data, or careless with figures at best. Because when you read that 1.8 million young kids “are not occupied,” your first thought is probably that of 1,8 million malandros coming to get you.
We’re in bad shape, but not quite that bad.