MexicoSharing a long border with the United States in the Western Hemisphere, Mexico has an estimated population of 108 million people with approximately 37 million people under 18 years old. The GNI per capita is US$9, 980. [1]

Youth Civic Participation Overview

As one of the largest and most economically and politically important countries in Latin America, Mexico has the presence of many international and local organizations. Organizations such as Boy Scouts and YMCA all provide short-term civic participation opportunities to Mexican youth. The Catholic Church also plays a critical role in mobilizing young people for community service.

For example, AYUSA Global Youth Exchange, established in 1980, is a non-profit exchange organization with programs geared towards high school students. AYUSA recently was awarded a grant from the US Department of State to run an initiative in Mexico called Jóvenes en Acción (Mexico Youth Leadership Program). The program is a partnership between the US Embassy in Mexico and Mexican Ministry of Education as well as other private sector companies in Mexico. The program is aimed at young Mexicans from communities plagued with unemployment, drugs, violence and a lack of education. The program will have Mexican youth participating in service projects, cultural enrichment activities, and global skills training to develop civic responsibility and commitment to communities. [2]

Policy Overview

The main agency addressing issues relating to young people within the Mexican government is the Instituto Mexicano de la Juventud (Mexican Youth Institute or IMJUVE). IMJUVE was established in 1999 and focuses its efforts on individuals between the ages of 12 and 29 years old. IMJUVE develops and promotes youth policies and programs and advises the Government of Mexico and private civil society actors on youth programming and development. The organization also acts as a government representative when consulting with non-state actors. [3]

IMJUVE operates a number of programs to promote civic engagement among Mexico’s young people. One such program is the Poder Joven (Youth Power) radio show. Through this program, young people have access to a national radio broadcast in which they can discuss issues and themes that are important to them. IMJUVE also promotes Youth Civic Engagement by distributing prizes and awards to high achieving young people in Mexico, highlighting their civic and social contributions. [4]

Despite these activities, IMJUVE recognizes that it can do more to promote Youth Civic Participation. In a recently released monitoring report by the IMJUVE board of advisors, the board recommended that the organization take three steps in order to strengthen its promotion of Youth Civic Participation in Mexico. The board recommended that IMJUVE build an updated database of youth organizations within Mexico so that they can be easily contacted and partnered with on an ongoing basis. The board also suggested that civic participation opportunities within civil society organizations be better publicized by IMJUVE, suggesting that the agency engage in events to highlight youth volunteering, its benefits, and existing service opportunities available to young people in the country. Finally, the board suggested that IMJUVE keep a database of youth volunteers so that they can continually be informed of new volunteer activities, as well implementing a system of putting young people in contact with organizations that provide service opportunities in which they are interested. [5]

Aside from IMJUVE, the Mexican government has an educational policy that requires youth civic engagement. Mexico’s Servicio Social legislation, passed in 1937, requires that university students that have completed 70% of their course work engage in 480 hours of community service within six months in order to graduate.[6] The program was initially focused on medical students deploying to rural areas to help meet chronic needs for medical professionals and resources. The initial success of the program resulted in the government doubling its expenditures on public health and expanding the program in 1947 to include mandatory requirements for all students. The Mexican government does provide annual funding for the basic costs of implementing the program, including covering certain salaries, training costs and supplies, however outside the public health sector, resources have been more limited. The government also provides training to professors in charge of implementing or being involved in the program.


Mexico has an estimated underemployment rate of 25% and has recently experienced a surge in drug violence and related crime. [7] As such, national service and community-based efforts have been implemented to engage young people in meeting needs in their communities. In particular, Mexico, like many other countries, experiences a chronic lack of medical professionals and resources in its rural areas. Many trained doctors look for better-paying employment in urban areas or outside of Mexico. According to the World Health Organization, Mexico had 195,897 physicians out of a population of approximately 97 million in 2000. [8] To respond to this need, the Mexican government implemented its Servicio Social program in 1937 which enabled students to fill a critical need in the shortage of medical services, while also engaging in valuable experiential learning experiences. The students also sent reports back to universities detailing the general conditions, the state of sanitation and disease rates where they were serving and the program was very successful in providing health services to rural areas.

Going Forward

A long-standing national service scheme has been implemented engaging university students in Mexico to address critical needs throughout the country, while civil society organizations are also striving to create opportunities for Youth Civic Participation. At the same time, the government recognizes that it could be doing more to support youth civic participation through IMJUVE and hopefully if it acts on recent recommendations, it will be able to further expand opportunities for Youth Civic Participation across the country.

Additional Resources

IMJUVE, Instituto Mexicano de la Juventud (Mexican Institute for Youth)
What Works in Adolescent Participation in Latin American and the Caribbean (2010)
Service as a Strategy for Addressing Critical National Needs (2008)
Service as a Strategy for Combating Youth Unemployment (2006)
Policy Scan – An Exploratory Study of National Youth Service Policy in 19 Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (2006)
National Youth Service news in Mexico

[1] “Mexico,” UNICEF Info by Country, Web, 28 September 2010,
[2] “Jovenes en Accion,” AYUSA Global Youth Exchange, Web, 30 September 2010,
[3] Instituto Mexicano de la Juventud (IMJUVE), Web, 30 September 2010,
[4] Ibid.
[5] Instituto Mexicano de la Juventud (IMJUVE).
[6] Edward Metz, Ph.D., et al., Policy Scan: An Exploratory Study of National Youth Service Policy in 19 Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP), Washington, D.C., Web, 25 October 2010,
[7] “Mexico Country Facts,” WGBH Educational Foundation, Web, 30 September 2010,
[8] “Mexico Core Health Indicators,” World Health Organization Statistical Information System, October 2008.
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