Native Village
Youth and Education news
October 2010 Volume 2

2010: Year of the Nini
Condensed by Native Village


If Time magazine had sense, the "Nini" would be their 2010 "Person of the Year."


What is a Nini? The slang word means a young person who does not work or study.


Nini have become a crisis in Mexico. Some studies say up to 8,000,000 Ninis live in Mexico. 500,000 of those are in organized crime. But government officials claim only about 280,000 idle youth are in the land.


During the World Youth Conference in Guanajuato last summer, people were sharply divided over the number of Ninis and the response by Mexico's President, Felipe Calderon.  Among those angered by the government's claims are Jose Narro, Director of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He insists that millions of Ninis do indeed exist, and that Mexico must do something about the problem.

Aureliano Pena Lomel is director of Mexico's main agricultural school, the Autonomous University of Chapingo. Pena says it's worse for rural youth. Less than 10% pursue higher education.

The Nini is not just a Mexican crisis, however.  81,000,000 young people across our world were unemployed at the end of 2009.  Jobless youth were “the highest number ever,” said a report by the ILO (International Labor Organization).


This amounts to the population of Iran.


The Nini are a focus of the United Nations International Youth Year which began August 1.  An ILO report warns of a “lost generation” of young people who “have dropped out of the labour market, having lost all hope of being able to work for a decent living”.

The epicenter of the Nini might be violence-torn Ciudad Juarez on the Mexico-U.S. border. Too few opportunities exist there to earn a liveable wage. Too poor to pursue an education, youth often become look-outs, smugglers, drug dealers and killers by rival drug cartels.


When 15 young people were massacred at a party in a Ciudad Juarez neighborhood, a new slang word evolved from the slaughter: juvencidio -- “youthcide.”

According To Reports:

Ciudad Juarez’s young top the list of over 6,000 murder victims since 2008

Between 2008 - early 2010, 1,623 murders were reported in the city. 1,073 of the victims were under 26 years of age

From 2008- 2009, 54% of Mexico's narco war victims were age 21 - 35


In the meantime, Mexico has pledged $300,000,000 to reconstruct Ciudad Juarez.  But only $6,000,000 has been budgeted for security.

For many youth, becoming a criminal is the “only option,” said Julian Contreras from the group, Plural Citizens Front. “We are in a country where there is no future for us as young people, and this is blowing up and radicalizing us,”


The young activist said the group has protested military presence, violence, and human rights violations.

For decades, the numbers of Mexican Nini were unknown because so many youth entered the US labor market. But America's poor economy and stronger border security now keeps these people home. 

To make it worse, Mexico already faces a “demographic bonus” of people between ages 15-29.

Duuring the World Youth Conference, 27,000 people from almost 100 countries attended events.  One was Felix Guerra, a Cabinet member with the Calderon administration. He spoke to the crowd and urged young people not become “victims of circumstances” or blame their parents, government or the world for the state of affairs.  Instead, he suggested they become entrepreneurs using the “four Ms” solution: “market, market, market, market.”

 Julian Contreras has different ideas.  “Deep, drastic changes are needed–a change in economic policy and a more equitable distribution of wealth and not just spare change,” he said. “What we Mexicans need are real opportunities for development and education.”  


Contreras added that collective activism is the key to a “better future, a better planet.”

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