World parliaments have chronic under-representation of young: Report

DHAKA: Young people continue to be chronically ‘under-represented’ in world’s parliaments, a new IPU report has found at a time when the global youth population has been the largest in history, reports UNB.
Bangladesh is placed on the 86th position in the global ranking of parliamentarians aged under 30 showing 0.3 percent representation, data showed, while India is holding the 46th position.
Young parliamentarians make up a majority of committee members in only one-third of the chambers for which data were available.
Interestingly, the members of some of these committees – in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Namibia, Oman and the Philippines – are almost exclusively under the age of 45.
Youth participation in national parliaments 2016, launched on Wednesday during the IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union) Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in Lusaka, Zambia, revealed that only 1.9 percent of the world’s 45,000 parliamentarians are aged below 30.
The level shows almost no improvement on figures from a previous IPU study conducted in 2014, according to a message received here from Geneva.
“This report clearly identifies the need to open up a new front in the fight for equality. With the median age of the global population at 29.6 years, parliaments have to reflect the current demographic realities,” says IPU President Saber Chowdhury.
This, he said, is critical to countering the growing alienation of young people from politics and safeguarding a stronger democratic future for the world.
Nearly a third of single or lower houses of parliament and nearly 80 percent of upper houses surveyed do not have a single Member of Parliament (MP) below the age of 30.
Only four countries – Sweden, Ecuador, Finland and Norway – have 10 per cent or more MPs below 30 years.
The overall figures for young MPs rise to 14.2 percent for those under 40, and 26 percent for those under 45.
In all age groups, the figures fall far short of the corresponding numbers for their share of the population. People aged 20-44 make up 57 percent of the world’s voters, according to UN figures.
Despite the low overall totals of young MPs based on information from 128 countries, the report found some signs of progress in recent elections, including in nine countries where more than 50 percent of the MPs elected were under 45 years.
According to the report, countries with proportional representation systems elected around twice as many young MPs as those with mixed systems, and 15-20 times as many as those with majoritarian systems.
In the 15 countries where quotas were used, systems based on reserved seats were the most successful, easily exceeding their original targets.
Significantly, the study highlights an inverse relationship between the size of a country’s youth population and the number of its young MPs.
Statistical evidence indicates that the higher the proportion of the population under 30, the smaller the number of MPs in the same age group.
The IPU report notes that young women face a double layer of inequality – both because they are young and because they are women.
However, representation of the two sexes is more balanced among the youngest MPs in each parliament.
The report found no geographical pattern on youth participation in parliament, with countries with the highest and lowest levels of participation spread across all regions of the world.
Sweden ranks top in IPU’s world rankings for MPs under 30 in a single/lower house of parliament with 12.3 percent. The upper house with the highest percentage of young MPs under 30 is Bhutan, with 9.1 percent.
Among the 10 key recommendations made in the IPU report is aligning the age at which people can run for office with the minimum voting age. This would prevent young people having to wait years – in some cases until the age of 45 – before they could become an MP.
Other key recommendations for action include youth quotas, particularly legislated ones which have proved effective in the past, establishing more youth parliaments and youth councils for those below the minimum voting age, and doing much more to elect people below 30, particularly women.