Although they have different lives in Tihuaque, a poor and isolated area in the south of Bogotá, they both have a lot in common.
They went to the same school, they are currently unemployed, and an unexpected event changed the course of their lives: while they were only in ninth grade, the teenagers got pregnant.
A study called ‘The life decisions that young people from Bogotá make: poverty, skills, or risky behavior?’undertaken in 2018 by the Center for Studies on Economic Development (Cede) at the Universidad de los Andes, indicates that early pregnancy is a social phenomenon that has markedly altered the course of women’s lives. It highlights that, “42% of young people from the sample only study, 19% only work, 23% study and work, and the remaining 15.5% are ‘NEETs’: two out of three of this group are women, which is a significantly high percentage.
The findings from this study were used as input for the research project: ‘Millennials in Latin America and the Caribbean: work or study?’, undertaken by Espacio Público (Chile), the Inter-American Development Bank (U.S.A.), and the International Development Research Center (Canada). The aim was to identify what motivates the decisions young people in the region make when they finish secondary school and are faced with the world of work.
This project has gathered information from more than 15,000 young people between 15 and 24 in Colombia, Brazil, Chile, El Salvador, Haiti, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. The data from these countries will help to create public policies that have a positive impact on Latin American Millennials.
However, early pregnancy is not the only reason that females are overrepresented in the so-called ‘NEETs’. Unemployment, the lack of academic opportunities, the poor quality of education in vulnerable communities as well as the importance of being able to speak another language has also affected them. “I graduated in 2012 and what I learnt in school has not helped me at all. Everyone wants you to speak English, but what we leant is no help with the jobs out there’, complains 23 year-old Olga Sánchez, who, similarly to Yésica Nair and Jessica Delan, was one of the sample of 1,500 young people from Bogota and six focus groups that were studied in different areas of the city.
Men’s education and work decisions are related to their socio-emotional behavior and skills such as persistence and self-sufficiency as well as their socio-economic and family situation. “I think that my parents’ support was a tremendous help for me to be able to become a professional” says Jorge Caputo. He is a 24-year-old economics graduate who was awarded a scholarship and is currently working to pay for a masters”.
There is concern that, without doubt, risky activities affect both sexes’ expectations and decisions. The Cede project highlights that, “Having recently consumed drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol is associated with decisions in both male and female’s lives: there is a lower probability of only studying, while the probability of only working for males is 11 percentage points higher, and the probability of working and studying is 10 percentage points higher for women”. The study concludes that it is fundamental to create programs that take life expectancies and socio-emotional skills into consideration from a young age.
Yessica Nair is now 22. She lives with her husband and seven-year-old son. Although she is still affected by the memory of the day her father told her to leave the house when she was just 15 because she was pregnant, she has not lost hope of a prosperous future, and she does everything she can to make her dreams become a reality. “I would like to own my own clothes shop because you can sell a lot of them. You just have to really go for everything you do”, she says with unbroken faith.
Name of the study in Bogotá:
The life decisions that young people from Bogotá make: poverty, skills, or risky behavior?
Authors of the study in Bogotá:
Lina María Sánchez
Center for Studies on Economic Development (Cede), Faculty of Economics, Universidad de los Andes.
Espacio Público (Chile) and the Inter-American Development Bank (Washington, D.C.)
International Development Research Center (Canada) and the Inter-American Development Bank (U.S.A.).