A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Union says continued youth under-representation in parliament poses a huge threat to democracy.

The report, ‘Youth Participation in National Parliaments 2016, which was launched during the IPU Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Lusaka, Zambia showed no improvement on figures from a previous IPU study conducted in 2014.

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According to the new report, only 1.9 per cent of the world’s 45,000 parliamentarians are aged below 30.

IPU President Saber  Chowdhury said the report identified the need to open up a new front in the fight for equality.

“With the median age of the global population at 29.6 years, parliaments have to reflect current demographic realities. This is critical to countering the growing alienation of young people from politics and to safeguarding a stronger democratic future for our world”, said Chowdhury.

The study also disclosed an inverse relationship between the size of a country’s youth population and the number of its young MPs. Statistical evidence indicated that the higher the proportion of the population under 30, the smaller the number of MPs in the same age group.

Countries with proportional representation systems, the report showed, elected around twice as many young MPs as those with mixed systems, and 15-20 times as many as those with majoritarian systems.

According to the report, young women faced a ‘double layer inequality’ based on gender and age. However, representation of the both sexes was shown to be more balanced among the youngest MPs in each parliament.

The report didn’t find a geographical pattern on youth participation in parliament, with countries with the highest and lowest levels of participation spread across all regions of the world. Sweden occupied the top spot on the IPU’s world rankings for MPs under 30 in a single/lower house of parliament with 12.3 per cent. With 9.1 per cent, Bhutan shone bright as the upper house with the highest percentage of young MPs under 30.

Sweden, Ecuador, Finland and Norway are the only countries to have 10 per cent or more MPs below 30 years.

It wasn’t all bad news as the IPU report showed that some form of progress has been made in recent elections, including nine countries where more than 50 per cent of the MPs elected were under 45 years. The overall figures for young MPs rose to 14.2 per cent, even though they fell short of the corresponding numbers for their share of the population.

The IPU report recommended the alignment of the age at which people can run for office with the minimum voting age. This, the report said, would prevent young people having to wait years before they could become an MP.

Establishment of more youth parliaments and youth councils for those below the minimum voting age, doing more to elect people below 30, especially women and legislated youth quotas were other recommendations given by the report.

 

You can read the full report here: http://www.ipu.org/press-e/pressrelease201603161.htm