C.R.’s Young Struggle with Age-old Problems

February 29, 2008
Young people in Costa Rica have trouble finishing school and finding jobs. They are mostly single, they distrust politicians and gender lines still divide them.
So says the first exhaustive study on people ages 15 to 35 in Costa Rica, released this week by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and the United Nations Population Fund.
Drawing on interviews of 2,500 people, the study charts trends in health, education, work, sexuality and home life among young Costa Ricans and immigrants living here.
“For decades, young people were invisible in the eyes of society,” said Karina Bolaños, vice minister of youth.
Some 24% of 15- to 17-year-olds are not in school, even though nearly half of people in that age range said finishing their studies is a top goal. Young people leave school because they are uninterested, they have to work, or they have trouble registering, getting to school and buying materials.
More than 11% of girls ages 15 to 17 drop out because they get pregnant.
Immigrants to Costa Rica have less access to the school system, the study found. Some 80% of Nicaraguan immigrants ages 15 to 35 don’t go to school or university, compared to 60% of Costa Ricans in the same age range.
Gender lines among young people are still clearly marked. Women ages 15 to 35 are much more likely than men to do household chores like laundry, cleaning, and cooking. About 69% of men but only 32% of women in that age range work outside the home.
Finding employment is tough for both sexes. More than 37% of working university graduates ages 18 to 24 were hired because of personal contacts. Just 34% found work through their own efforts.
“The simplest way to get a job is through a friend. That’s something young people criticize,” said Jorge Rojas, who worked on the study as director of the Council of the Young Person.
As for political engagement, Rojas said, “there is enormous disillusionment among youth.
“Not only do they not want to participate in politics, but they don’t believe in our politicians.”
Results of the study will be used to help guide government policies aimed at improving the lives and outlook of the nation’s young people, according to the study’s authors.
Some 60% of people ages 15 to 35 disapprove of the way politicians are running the country, with discontent highest among the youngest groups, the study found.
More than half of people ages 15 to 35 are single, and some 55% still live with their parents or the family who raised them. The most common reason for leaving home, they said, was finding a partner or having kids.
Some 29.4% of teens ages 15 to 17 have had sex. Young people largely learn about sexual health through their families and school. Still, information fails to reach many.
Among 18- to 24-year-olds, some 17% said they had not received information about sexually transmitted diseases, while 11.7% said they had not learned about contraceptives.
 
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