Global Reach: Peru

Year Work
Total Funds
Invested To Date

EMpower in PERU

As is true in all five of the Latin American countries in which EMpower works, Peru has high rates of income inequality, poverty, unemployment, gender inequality, teenage pregnancy and violence. Indigenous populations fare much worse in all of these areas, as they face a variety of challenges including a higher likelihood to be impoverished, come from uneducated households and live in rural areas, where access to public services is limited.

Young Peruvians face a number of challenges when they enter the work force, most notably the lack of decent employment opportunities. The majority of youth work in the informal sector, and a large proportion face precarious working conditions, low wages, unstable employment, no social security or health insurance, and dangerous environments. Young women and indigenous youth are the most affected.

The adolescent fertility rate in Peru stands at 56 per 1,000 women aged 15-19, significantly higher than the world average (42).[1] Most of these births are the result of unintended pregnancies, reflecting the insufficient awareness of sexual and reproductive health and rights. While Peru has made improvements in the availability and quality of reproductive health services including family planning, disparities in access to quality health care services persist. Violence against women is pervasive, with almost one-third of young women aged 15-29 having suffered physical and/or sexual violence from their intimate partner in their lifetime. Peru is also a source, destination and transit country for human trafficking. This is a growing concern, as women and girls are particularly vulnerable and often exploited in sex trafficking in illegal mining centers—which fuel the demand for sex and labor trafficking.

Poor educational quality is a problem. In 2018, Peru ranked as one of the worst performing countries participating in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which analyses the performance of students in mathematics, reading literacy and science (64th place out of 76 participating countries). Additionally, school dropout is an issue in Peru. While nearly all children attend primary school, only 76% of youth are estimated to enroll in secondary school, with an additional 17% (almost one in five) dropping out before graduation. School dropout and the inability to enroll disproportionately affect indigenous youth who face social and economic hardships.

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.[2]

In Peru, EMpower seeks to address these challenges by supporting local organizations to improve the relevance of secondary school curricula (i.e. vocational, employability and entrepreneurship curricula) and to design high-quality pilot programs that could be incorporated directly into the official school curriculum. Additionally, our support seeks to conduct specific outreach and tailored programming for adolescent girls to minimize vulnerabilities to sexual exploitation and violence, early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections by focusing on prevention and programming that includes provision of correct and comprehensive sexual reproductive health information with access to a range of modern contraceptives and youth friendly services.


Total population: 33,000,000 (2020)[3]

Percentage of population ages 10-24: 23.5% (2020)[4]

% urban/rural: 78.1% urban (2019)[5]

Special populations (e.g., refugees, indigenous young people, migrants) of interest: 2017 estimates report 60% of Peruvians are mestizo (mixed Indigenous and Spanish), 26% indigenous, 6% white, 4% Afro-Peruvian, 4% other.[6] Peru’s urban and coastal communities have benefitted much more from Peru’s recent economic growth than rural, Afro-Peruvian, indigenous and poor populations of the Amazon and mountain regions.

Economy and Environment

GDP per capita, whether growing/shrinking: $6,947 (2018), slight growth in recent years after doubling between 2005 and 2010.[7]

GINI index and rank: 42.8 (2018) (ranked 44 globally, indicating high levels of inequality)[8]

% living in poverty (by country’s own poverty line): 20.2 (2019).[9]

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. Peru: 4.6 (Medium, stable) overall; Rank 61 ; Hazard and Exposure score:5.1 (medium) 

Key issues that affect youth:

Gender inequality

Rank in Global Gender Gap report (2020): 66 (out of 153, where ranking closer to the bottom indicates more gender inequality in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment).[10]

Internet access: in 2018 55% of men used the internet, compared to 50% of women.

Education (Quality education, SDG4)

95% of males and females make the transition from primary to secondary education (2015)[11]

7.4% of young people in secondary school (6.3% of girls) are at least 2 years over age for grade (2017)[12]

 Secondary school completion rates: Males (86.1%), Females (86.8%) (2018)[13]

PISA reading score (2018): 401 (vs. OECD average of 487)[14]

PISA math score (2018): 400 (vs. OECD average of 489)[15]

PISA science score (2018): 404 (vs. OECD average of 489)[16]

Livelihoods (Decent work and economic growth, SDG 8)

Labor force participation rate for persons aged 15-24: Male (64.8%), Female (56.7%) (2017)[17]

Percentage of youth not in education, employment or training (NEET): Male (13.8%), Female (20.3%) (2019).[18]

Health and well-being

% of young women 20-24 married by age 18: 17% (2018)[19]

% of young women 20-24 mothers by age 18: 16% (2015)[20]

Gender-based violence prevalence or acceptance: 3.5% of 15-49 year-old females agreed that wife-beating was justified under certain circumstances (2012).[21]


[1] Adolescent Fertility Rate:


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

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



[7], page 187.















Other countries in Latin America:

Connect with EMpower

Stay up-to-date on the latest EMpower news, highlights from our grantee partners, upcoming events, and more.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Make a Difference with EMpower

Our Board Directors and the Leadership Council underwrite all of our Management, General and Fundraising expenses, so 100% of your donation goes directly to empowering marginalised young people.

Make a Donation

See more ways to make a difference