There has never been a better time to invest in young people in developing countries. Those aged 12-24 years number 1.2 billion and make up the largest youth cohort in history. They are, on average, more educated and healthier than generations before them. They represent, potentially, a stronger base on which to build, in a world that is increasingly demanding more than basic skills. Today's young people are the next generation of workers, entrepreneurs, parents, active citizens and leaders, who will live their lives with relatively fewer dependents because of lower fertility. Countries need to seize this window of opportunity before the aging process closes it. "Development and the Next Generation", the 2007 World Development Report (WDR), discusses the priorities for government action across five youth transitions that shape investments in young people's human capital: learning, working, staying healthy, forming families, and exercising citizenship. It concludes that investments in young people have been most successful when they have not only expanded opportunities directly, but have also improved the climate for young people and their families to invest in themselves.
Within these transitions, the WDR concludes that priorities for investment vary across countries. For middle-income and high-growth countries in East Asia, among others, which have already succeeded in providing mass basic and secondary education, the challenge is to develop a tertiary education system that enables young people to find jobs in highly competitive innovative industries, and to address their new health threats such as youth's tobacco use, obesity and road accidents. For lower-income countries such as those in Africa, the priority is to establish basic literacy and life skills for young adolescents and to safeguard health by preventing HIV/AIDS among young people who are beginning to be sexually active. Other priorities are more commonly shared across all countries. In addition to detailed chapters exploring these and related issues, the Report contains selected data from the "World Development Indicators 2006" - an appendix of economic and social data for over 200 countries.