Inclusive societies and development

Key Issues affecting Youth in Peru



Policy and Legislation


Over the last decade, youth related issues were brought into the national agenda by the Peruvian government, which developed different tools and policies to address youth needs and rights. The government of Alejandro Toledo established the National Youth Council (CONAJU) in 2002 to implement youth policies through the National Youth Commission (CNJ). As a ministerial authority, the CNJ developed the Guidelines for the National Youth Policy which led to the establishment of the first National Youth Strategy (2006-2011). CONAJU and CNJ were merged under the Ministry of Education (MINEDU) and replaced by the National Secretary for Youth (SENAJU) in 2007. SENAJU is the current state body in charge of formulating and implementing youth policies as well as creating space for consultation with young people under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The SENAJU co-ordinated the process for the establishment of the National Youth Strategy (2012-2021) gathering youth groups, civil society organisations and representatives from indigenous communities.

The Strategy constitutes a kind of "National Agreement" for young people in Peru. It promotes a national dialogue between the State, civil society, as well as young Peruvians, and provides these actors with a strategic roadmap along six key areas of intervention: 1) access to inclusive and quality education; 2) youth participation and representation; 3) employment and entrepreneurship; 4) health; 5) culture, identity and integration; and 6) environment and sustainable development. Although the strategy demonstrates the willingness of the government to address youth related issues, it has yet to be fully operationalised and the SENAJU has neither the authority nor the resources to fulfil its mandate. As a non-ministerial body under the Ministry of Education, the SENAJU lacks both autonomy and decision-making power. Additionally, due to a lack of legitimacy and clarity of its mandate, the SENAJU is not able to play a co-ordinating role and there is no effective co-ordination mechanism between the different entities in charge of youth-related issues, which leads to frictions and overlaps. A similar lack of co-ordination can also be found at the intergovernmental level between the central, regional and municipal authorities in charge of youth issues.




Socio-economic inequalities, compounded by gender, cultural and geographical discrimination, impede the public health system of Peru. Young women as well as youth from poor, rural and indigenous communities do not have adequate and equal access to basic health services and information. Peru’s youth is exposed to a variety of risks, including high rates of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse, as well as diseases related to sexual and reproductive health. Although the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Peru is low (0.2 per cent of youth aged 15-24), new infections are concentrated among youth due to a reluctant use of contraceptive methods. The rate of STD among young women (15-24) has significantly increased from 0.2 per cent in 2004 to 0.5 per cent in 2014 according to the Peruvian DHS, posing a serious risk for youth well being. As for alcohol consumption of teenagers, results show that more than half (58.6 per cent) of youth aged 17-19 are consumers of alcohol (Young Lives Survey). Alcohol and tobacco consumption is related to an urban lifestyle, high levels of education, predominantly for youth from richer and Spanish-speaking households.

Regarding early pregnancy, birth rates among young women aged 15-19 vary widely depending on residence (42 per thousand in rural vs. 17 per thousand in urban areas) and wealth (44 per thousand in poorest vs. 14 per thousand in wealthiest households in 2014). The adolescent fertility rate was 48.5 per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 2015 (UNDP), and the majority of these births are the result of unintended pregnancies, reflecting the insufficient awareness of sexual and reproductive health. Abortion is illegal in Peru (except in case of a threat to the life or health of the woman) and complications of abortion are the main cause of maternal death. More worrying, this indicator has deteriorated over the last decade for rural, poor, less educated, indigenous young women. In addition, gender-based and domestic violence are common in Peru; hence sexual intercourse at an early age is highly associated with coercion. Although gender-based violence has significantly decreased for women aged 15-29, almost a third of young women had suffered physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partner in their lifetime in 2014.

Finally, youth are at higher risk of perpetuating violence but also of being victim of it. According to the National Youth Survey of 2012, 58.6 per cent of Peru’s youth consider gang activity and crime to be the most serious problems affecting their lives and health. A 2015 report by SENAJU shows that youth (15-29) have both the highest rates of deaths associated with criminal acts compared to other cohorts and represent the highest proportions of the prison population (41.8 per cent, for youth aged 18-29).




The low quality of Peru's educational system is another major concern. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which analyses the performance of students in mathematics, reading literacy and science, ranked Peru as the worst performing country in 2012 despite an overall improvement for math, reading and science. Main barriers towards high-quality education are poor infrastructure, inadequate learning materials, out-dated curricula, and a lack of well-trained teachers. According to the World Bank, Peru spent 3.3% of its GDP on education in 2013. Nevertheless, over the past decade Peru has made significant progress in providing universal basic education. In 2014, the net enrolment rate in primary schools was 92.8 per cent. Enrolment rates have also increased for secondary and tertiary levels and female enrolment has had a significant increase over the last decade. More girls are now enroled in secondary and tertiary education than males: in 2014, the net enrolment rate in secondary schools was 79.4 per cent for young females and 77.4 for young males (World Bank). In addition, the literacy rate of people aged 15-24 years has also increased and was estimated at 98.94 per cent in 2015, showing an improvement in education quality. Dropout rates have also experienced a significant reduction, including in rural areas and for indigenous youth. However, dropout rates for lower and upper secondary education is still very high for youth living in rural areas, with low income and/or indigenous origins.

Persistent inequalities related to geographical location, cultural identity and gender remain major problems while poverty status and ethnicity are still important factors of poor education outcomes. Indigenous youth face a variety of challenges – they are more likely to be poor, usually from uneducated households and live in rural areas, where access to public services is limited.  These factors impede the educational attainments of young indigenous people significantly. Spanish-speaking students are more likely to access and to complete basic education than students whose maternal language is indigenous (more than 12 per cent of young Peruvians speak an indigenous tongue as their maternal language, in some provinces the rate raises over 50 per cent). Although more indigenous youth now enrols in education further than primary level, the gap between indigenous enrolment rates and Spanish-speakers remains significant.




Young Peruvians still face a number of challenges when they enter the national labour market, above all the lack of decent employment opportunities and skills mismatch. Young women and indigenous youth are the most afflicted. Gender, location and ethnicity have a significant impact on the access and quality of employment, the most vulnerable groups being rural, low educated, female, poor and indigenous young people.

The relatively low youth unemployment rate (9.2% in 2014) is an imperfect indicator. Indeed, the unemployment rate among young Peruvians is almost three times higher than that for adults. The integration of young people on the labour market also remains precarious: the labour force participation rate among youth (15-24) was 61.4 per cent in 2014 (ILO). The majority of youth works in the informal sector, while every second young worker is exposed to precarious working conditions, such as low wages, unstable employment, no social security or health insurance, and dangerous environments. In addition, more than one-sixth of the youth are inactive (neither in the labor force nor in education or training) with a majority of women (almost three fourths of Peruvian NEET). Even though the rate of youth NEET has decreased over the last years, from 16.5 per cent in 2004 to 15.3 per cent in 2014, this reduction seems small compared to the increase in youth population over the decade. Many Peruvians who leave school lack the foundational learning-, practical-, and life-skills demanded by the labour market. Especially marginalised youth groups are less likely to access vocational training and high-quality education, and face difficulties in the school-to-work transition. Lack of information about job opportunities and skills mismatch are major issue, with a high proportion of youth being over-educated for their jobs.

However, the structure of the labour market has changed significantly over the past decade: while in 2004 31.29 per cent of youth were contributing family workers, this proportion is only a fourth in 2014 (24.35 per cent). More and more young people are employees (28.5 per cent in 2014 compared to 20 per cent in 2004) (ENAHO). In addition, the share of youth (15-29) with below-average wages has improved, dropping from 64.2 per cent in 2004 to 57.2 per cent in 2014 (ENAHO), for both young males and females.


Youth Participation


Even though there has been an increase in youth participation in civic and political activities, their participation to social, economic and political spheres of public life remains low. Less than 7 per cent of youth were civically engaged in 2014 (ENAHO) (i.e. the percentage of youth who during the past month have volunteered their time to an organization). In addition, institutional trust seems to have deteriorated, with a high proportion of youth who declared not being confident in institutions, such as national government, civil services, police, military, judiciary services and media: for instance, 80 per cent of youth declared that they did not trust the Congress in 2014 (ENAHO).

Yet, the National Youth Strategy of 2012 identifies 'Youth Participation and Representation' as a strategic priority of public policy and defines as its objective “to promote the integration, civic participation, and political engagement of young people in national development and the democratic system.” In this line, the National Secretariat for Youth (SENAJU) established the volunteer program Voluntariado Juvenil, which articulates, promotes and co-ordinates youth volunteering in Peru. The priority areas of intervention are poverty alleviation, humanitarian aid, and public policies that contribute to the Millennium Development Goals. The programme Jovenes Electores also aims to promote political participation among young people, while the programme Jóvenes Voluntarios organise awareness-raising activities about civic and political life, elections and young people's rights. Finally, the Youth Parliament of Peru is comprised of 130 members allowing young people (18-29) to become familiar with decision and law-making processes.




Persistent social and economic inequalities in the Peruvian society are the main factor that drives migration from rural to urban areas, and across national borders. In 2009, 76,400 young Peruvians left the country, representing about 54 per cent of all emigrants in that year. Between 1994 and 2008, the total number of young emigrants was around 500,000.

The wish to leave Peru varies between age groups (56.3 per cent of youth aged 15-19, 36.5 per cent of youth aged 25-29) and between rural (33.3 per cent) and urban (51 per cent) youth (ILO). Most of the emigrants are male, aged 25-29, and relatively highly skilled while the share of female migrants is increasing. The main destination of internal rural-urban migration is Lima; international migrants predominantly aim at Chile, Bolivia, the United States and Spain. The main drivers of emigration are better economic perspectives and living conditions, education and family reasons. However, most of the young and skilled migrants are exposed to non-professional jobs and social exclusion.




Foreign Policy in Focus (2011): Peru’s Leftist Student Revival.
ILO (2013): Youth Employment and Migration in Peru.
Machel McCatty (2004): The Process of Rural-Urban Migration in Developing Countries.
National Youth Institute of Statistics and Informatics – Peru (2014) Peruvian National Household Survey ENAHO
National Youth Policy (2014): Factsheet Peru.
Population Reference Bureau (2013): The World's Youth. 2013 Data Sheet.
UNESCO (2010): Explaining and overcoming marginalization in education: a focus on ethnic/language minorities in Peru.
UNESCO (2012): Youth and skills: Putting education to work.
UNESCO (2015): 
UNFPA (2005): Public Youth Policies and Reproductive Rights: Limitations, Opportunities and Challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean.
UNICEF (2008): Situation of Children in Peru. Executive Summary.
USAID (2010): Evaluation of USAIDs/Peru's Education Program: Apprendes and Cett-Andino.
USAID (2014) Demographic and Health Survey ENDES
Secretaría Nacional de la Juventud (2012): Plan Estratégico Nacional de Juventudes. 2012-2021.
Secretaría Nacional de la Juventud (2012): Perú: Primera Encuesta Nacional de la Juventud 2012. Resultados Finales.
Secretaría Nacional de la Juventud (2014): Website. 
Young Lives (2014) Young Lives Survey




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