Global Reach: Mexico

Year Work
Total Funds
Invested To Date

EMpower in MEXICO

As is true in all five of the Latin American countries in which EMpower works, Mexico has high rates of income inequality, poverty, unemployment, gender inequality, teenage pregnancy, and violence. Poverty levels are significantly higher among rural and indigenous populations, and gender inequalities lead to high levels of violence against women and teenage pregnancy.  Mexico has the highest teen pregnancy rate of all OECD countries, with 77 births per 1,000 youth ages 15-19 years of age (for comparison, the global rate is 46 per thousand). Despite comprehensive sexuality education being part of Mexico’s formal curriculum, youth report receiving very little (or no) information in schools. Limited or incorrect information also contributes to unwanted teenage pregnancy.

Despite Mexico’s recent progress in ensuring that young people finish school — graduation rates have increased from 33% in 2000 to over 56% in 2018 (56.6% for males, 60.8% for females)[2] — educational quality has consistently been an issue in Mexico, as demonstrated by the country’s longtime poor performance on international assessments, including the Program for International Assessment (PISA) test conducted by the OECD in 2018. Mexican students scored significantly lower in reading, math and science than the OECD average (420, 409, 419 compared to 487, 489, 489, respectively).[3]

All of these problems are made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit Latin America harder than any other region in the world. Indeed, while Latin America is home to just eight percent of the world’s population, it accounts for roughly 40% of global coronavirus-related deaths.[1]

In Mexico, EMpower seeks to address these challenges by supporting work with particularly marginalized populations, such as indigenous youth, to promote gender-equitable behaviors among young people, as well as providing age-appropriate comprehensive sexuality education. The focus on gender equity is integral, as global research shows that programs that address gender or power are five times more effective in reducing rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unintended pregnancy than those that do not.[2] EMpower supports the engagement of boys on the topic of gender equality given the key role they play in establishing more equitable gender dynamics. 


Total population: 128,900,000 (2020)[4]

Percentage of population ages 10-24: 25.8% (2020)[5]

% urban/rural: 80.4% urban (2020)[6]

Special populations of interest: While Mexico does not collect census information on ethnicity, it is estimated that roughly 60% of the population is mestizo (indigenous-Spanish mix), 30% indigenous, and 10% other.[7] Indigenous populations are more prevalent in states in Southern Mexico and tend to have lower socioeconomic indicators.

Economy and Environment

GDP per capita, whether growing/shrinking: $9,695 (2018), staying level in recent years[8]

GINI index and rank: 45.4 (2018) (ranked 29th globally, indicating high levels of inequality)[9]

% living in poverty (by country’s own poverty line): 41.9% (2018).[10]

INFORM Risk Index score (2020): Widely-used tool to assess the risk of humanitarian crisis and disasters, including the Hazard and Exposure subscale, which includes natural disasters like earthquakes, droughts, and floods, and human disasters like conflict. Mexico: 5.1 High (High, stable) overall; Rank 47; Hazard and Exposure score: 8.1 (very high)

Key issues that affect youth:

Gender inequality

Rank in Global Gender Gap report (2020): 25 (out of 153, where ranking closer to the bottom indicates more gender inequality in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment).[11]

Internet access: in 2018 67% of men used the internet, compared to 64% of women. 86% of both men and women owned a mobile phone.

Education (Quality education, SDG4)

96% of females and males make the transition from primary to secondary school (2015)[12]

2.4% of young people in secondary school (1.8% of girls) are at least 2 years over age for grade (2017)[13]

Secondary school completion rates: Males (56.6%), Females (60.8%) (2018)[14]

PISA reading score (2018): 420 (vs. OECD average of 487)[15]

PISA math score (2018): 409 (vs. OECD average of 489)[16]

PISA science score (2018): 419 (vs. OECD average of 489)[17]

Livelihoods (Decent work and economic growth, SDG 8)

Labor force participation rate for persons aged 15-24: Male (56.7%), Female (30.7%) (2017)[18]

Percentage of youth not in education, employment or training (NEET): Male (8.9%), Female (27.7%) (2019).[19]

Health and well-being

% of young women 20-24 married by age 18: 26% (2015)[20]

% of young women 20-24 mothers by age 18: 20.5% (2015)[21]

Gender-based violence prevalence or acceptance: 5.8% of 15-19 year-old females agreed that wife-beating was justified under certain circumstances (2015).[22]

Social support: 17.4% of 15-29 year olds say they have no friends or relatives they can count on in times of trouble.





[4] Estimated size of populations at mid-year., table beginning on page 142.

[5] UNFPA calculation based on UN Population Division data, as cited in, on table beginning on page 142.



[8], page 185.















Other countries in Latin America:

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