idespread disillusionment and social tension threaten developing countries, which fail to invest in better education, healthcare, and job training for their young people, the World Bank warned on Saturday.
With 1.3 billion people between the ages of 12 and 24 living in the developing world, there has never been a better time to invest in a youth that is healthier, better educated than previous generations and will join the workforce with fewer dependents, the World Bank said in its World Development Report 2007.
"Such large numbers of young people living in developing countries present great opportunities, but also risks," Francois Bourguignon, the bank's chief economist said.
The report was released in Singapore where the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are holding their annual meetings.
Young people make up nearly half of the world's unemployed.
"The Middle East and North Africa region alone must create 100 million jobs by 2020 in order to stabilise its employment situation," the report said.
Developing countries, which invest in better education, healthcare, and job training, could produce surging economic growth and sharply reduced poverty.
The report said that 300,000 youths under the age of 18 have recently been involved in armed conflict, and another 500,000 have been recruited into military or paramilitary forces.
Noting that some 130 million 15-25-year-olds cannot read or write, the report said secondary education and skill acquisition make sense only if primary schooling has been successful.
"Most developing countries have a short window of opportunity to get this right before their record numbers of youth become middle-aged, and they lose their demographic dividend," said Manny Jimenez, director of human development in the World Bank's East Asia and the Pacific department.