Youth participation in national parliaments

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The topic of youth participation in politics has found its place on the global agenda, with new attention directed to the question of how to elect more young people to national parliaments and other political positions. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) adopted the resolution Youth participation in the democratic process at its 122nd Assembly (Bangkok, March–April 2010) and established the Forum of Young Parliamentarians in 2013. It subsequently designed and distributed a questionnaire on youth participation in national parliaments to all its Member Parliaments. This report analyses the nearly 100 responses received by early October 2014, focusing on patterns of youth representation in national parliaments, statutory regulations regarding rights to vote and to run for political office, and the presence of measures to promote youth participation. In line with the Rules and Working Modalities of the IPU Forum of Young Parliamentarians, parliamentarians in this report are considered “young” if they are under 45 years old. Recognizing variations in definitions, however, the report presents the first-ever world ranking of young parliamentarians according to three cut-off ages: 30, 40 and 45. These data and rankings reveal the trends below.

• When “young” is defined as under 30, only one country, Norway, breaks the 10 per cent barrier. Two thirds of single and lower houses of parliament have 2 per cent or fewer young parliamentarians. All upper houses have less than 6 per cent, with three quarters electing no young parliamentarians at all.
• When “young” is defined as under 40, the proportion of young parliamentarians increases slightly. Leading countries are San Marino and Denmark for single and lower chambers, and Kenya and Belgium for upper houses. About half of all single and lower chambers have between 10 and 20 per cent young legislators. Upper houses fare less well, with the vast majority scoring below 10 per cent.
• When “young” is defined as under 45, some States show substantial progress, most notably the Netherlands with more than 60 per cent young parliamentarians in the lower house. Indeed, more than one third of the single and lower chambers examined in the report had more than 30 per cent young people in parliament. Upper houses perform less well, however, with the top countries, like Belgium and Kenya, electing only half as many young representatives. When youth participation is compared with that of other age cohorts and disaggregated by sex, several notable trends come to light.
• The largest number of parliamentarians, both men and women, falls in the 51–60 age range. Men parliamentarians outnumber women parliamentarians in every single age group.
• Across all the chambers analyzed in the report, the largest gap in representation is between men over 45 and women under 45, suggesting that younger women are doubly disadvantaged compared to parliamentarians with other demographic profiles.
• Among the youngest parliamentarians in each chamber, two thirds were first elected between the ages of 21 and 30. About two thirds are men, and one third women. 



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