The fact that 24.6 per cent of El Salvador’s young population is neither studying nor employed is a reservoir of future immigrants and gang members, according to experts who assess situations such as the one that occurred in Mexico.
The 2022 Multipurpose Household Survey (Encuesta de Hogares de Propósitos Múltiples, EHPM) issued a warning that touched on demographic factors in El Salvador as potential sources of migrants or criminals.
Recent research shows that for years the youth were the main contributors to the maras or gangs that made the country one of the most violent in the world with high homicide rates.
The EPMH survey indicated that in 2022 some 402,262 young people between 15 and 29 years of age were neither studying nor working, while studies reveal that gang members are mostly very young. According to some studies, 72% of gang members are between 16 and 21 years old, with the average age being 18.7 years.
The National Statistics and Census Office (Onec) in its most recent research found that 402,850 young people aged 15-29 were neither studying nor working, although the figure was 12.2% lower than in 2020.
The so-called “ninis” (neither working nor studying) have fewer possibilities for professional development as they are outside the education system. This gap is greater for the population in rural areas, where 30.5% are between 15 and 29 years old compared to 20.8% in urban areas.
On the other hand, and to accentuate the danger, the EHPM showed that out of a population of 6,330,947 last year, 25.8% are young people aged 15-29.
As long as these conditions prevail, the lament of many voices will be heard in El Salvador.
Arrested and killed
“We are running out of young people” said the bishop of Chalatenango, Monsignor Oswaldo Escobar, as he lamented the tragedy that struck the Melara family, a resident of that department, after two of its members died in the immigration detention centre in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, in their quest to reach US soil.
Irregular migration and the lack of conditions to stay in El Salvador leave Chalatenango without young people, the prelate told a crowd of believers and ordinary citizens who gathered in a church to say their last goodbyes to their countrymen and women seeking the so-called “American dream”.
“For us it means pain, it hurts a lot this constant migration, in many cantons of Chalatenango we are left without youth, without someone who can produce the land. In many of our villages and cantons there are many elderly people and children, many single mothers as well, and all this upsets us”, said Escobar, describing the situation.
The bodies of Enrique Alfonso Melara Rivera, 44, and Milton Alexis Melara Melgar, 33, two of the 40 victims of the fire at the Ciudad Juárez immigration detention centre that cut short the hopes of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, are a bitter reminder of the reality.
They left full of illusions and now we receive their bodies, the prelate pointed out, recalling that many leave with the hope of a new life and sometimes return in coffins, or in other cases, converted into gang members like those who returned from the United States decades ago.
The Chalateca land received the coffins of Enrique Alfonso and Milton Alexis on Monday.
However, it could have been thousands of other young people who make up a large offspring who find their only destiny in immigration or gangs. (PL)
(Translated by Cristina Popa – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay