November 14, 2023 – A report by the World Bank reveals that approximately 20% of Timorese youth, aged between 15 and 24, are not engaged in education or employment. This concerning statistic is attributed to shortcomings in education, healthcare provision, and social protection.

The report, available on the World Bank’s official website, evaluates the human capital situation in East Timor. It highlights that the average school attendance of only 6.3 years is indicative of poor learning outcomes. Overcrowded classrooms, a shortage of teachers, and lack of skills have led to a 20% dropout rate and significant disengagement among students.

Social protection services, intended to encourage school attendance, face considerable failures and exhibit varied success rates. The report also points out significant barriers to accessing essential health services. Specifically, girls and young women under 20 often lack access to reproductive health services, with only 19% of sexually active unmarried women using contraception.

The unemployment rate in East Timor remains high at 14% in 2021, driven by weak vocational training systems and low labor demand in the private sector. The supply of university-educated workers is double the market demand, unevenly distributed across sectors, with foreign labor filling critical gaps.

Furthermore, 72% of the employed population works in the informal sector, making most workers in East Timor particularly vulnerable to labor crises. The contributory pension system covers only 34% of the workforce and faces sustainability challenges. Additionally, the social protection system does not offer unemployment benefits, crucial for maintaining livelihoods during periods of unemployment.

To address these challenges, the World Bank advocates for a diversified economy that fosters job creation in a resilient private sector. This should be complemented by government spending and a more targeted social protection system.