Youths participating in the airplane cleaning course.
Photo: Plan International El Salvador


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Youth gangs are a widespread phenomenon in Latin America. Often, it is poor prospects for income generation because of insufficient education and work experience that drive young people into the hands of these gangs. International co-operation projects can help by facilitating the acquisition of skills and initiating alliances with local key actors, as the example of a Plan International project in El Salvador shows.

El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America, having only 6.8 million inhabitants, 30 per cent of whom are adolescents and young adults (between 15 and 29 years of age). One of the biggest problems youth face is the high rate of unemployment (15 %), with an even higher rate of underemployment (35.7 %; Plan International El Salvador, 2016). The situation is worse in rural areas, where the poverty rate is currently 38.8 per cent, compared to 32.7 per cent in urban areas. A 2014 study shows that reasons for the high unemployment rate among adolescents and young Salvadorians include lacking education (22 %), lacking work experience (21.2 %) and the low hiring age (12.3 %; Oficina Internacional del Trabajo, 2014). The rates for a low educational level are higher in the rural areas. Only 27.7 per cent of youth in rural areas are in secondary education, compared to 45.3 per cent in urban areas (Plan International El Salvador, 2016).

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