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Youth, Gender and Social Protection: Rebuilding systems for the 21st century


This paper is an excerpt from AAI’s preliminary report, Youth, Gender and Social Protection: Rebuilding Systems for the 21st Century. It is written with a focus on young women and men, whose futures are and continue to be compromised by economic policies implemented over the past three decades, culminating in the financial crisis and Great Recession of 2008.

The response to the crisis - both in the North and South - in the form of ongoing austerity measures, has increased inequality. Neoliberalism has clearly exposed the limitations of the market in delivering social justice, but also in addressing what is called an existential crisis for humanity--the climate crisis.

The paper therefore looks back to the pre-neoliberal era, to the post-War and post Independence era when the world experienced unprecedented two to three decades of very high rates of social progress through state interventions on economic and social policy. These successes have been downplayed by proponents of neoliberalism, who continue to advocate against these models.

Reversing the economic, social and environmental disasters that have intensified in the first two decades of the 21st Century requires a better appreciation of the successes and failures of the 20th century welfare and developmental states, particularly in terms of advancing people’s civic, political economic, social and cultural rights.

Even as global demography has shifted in favour of young people, governments have fallen short on their commitments to young people. Looking towards the future, the major tension is how they balance their policies between approaches that privilege delivering on their human rights commitments or those that give priority to the demands of mainly multinational capital.