NEW YORK // International migration is becoming a key issue in the lives of young people with the latest preliminary data revealing that nearly 35 million migrants are under the age of 20, the United Nations said.
The data collected by the UN children's agency, Unicef, and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs showed that 62 per cent of the young people are living in developing countries, said Unicef's deputy director, Christian Salazar.
"Whether alone or with their families, adolescents and youth are increasingly migrating in search of employment, education, cultural advantages and better living standards," Mr Salazar said at a UN event on youth migration to commemorate International Youth Day on Monday.
"But for many young people migration represents also a way out of insecurity, discrimination or abuse."
Mr Salazar and other speakers stressed, however, that there is little data available to assess the real situations and needs of young migrants including their health, education, degree of exploitation and discrimination and social inclusion.
The limited information available shows that girls migrate in almost the same number as boys and that migration between developing countries is running at almost the same level as migration from developing countries to industrialised nations.
Charles Dan, the International Labor Organisation's special representative on youth and social inclusion, said 214 million people are living outside their country of birth today, "more than at any time in history".
"Almost half of these international migrants are women," he said. "And one in eight is a young migrant aged 15 to 24."
Mr Dan said the global youth unemployment crisis is currently driving millions of young people "to think about or decide to migrate".
Worldwide, he said, four out of 10 unemployed people are young women and men, and many more are underemployed or "working poor," with 228 million young people earning less than Dh8 a day.
Mr Dan warned that young people who migrate can face poor working conditions, discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or religion. In the worst cases, they can be subjected to human trafficking and forced labour, he said.
"For young people, migration should be a possibility, not a necessity."