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Indexing Global Youth Wellbeing

June 9, 2014

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Philanthropy New York and the Clinton Foundation's focus on global issues related to women and girls (see CSR Now for May 19, 2014). Recently, another relevant report surfaced -The Global Youth Wellbeing Index.

Sponsored by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, the International Youth Foundation and Hilton Worldwide, this report attempts to chronicle the state of young people (defined as youth aged 10 to 24) around the world, and specifically in 30 countries. Its findings are both frightening and heartening.

The report identifies six domains of young people's lives and 40 indicators of wellbeing in those domains. It assumes that quality wellbeing among young people results from opportunities provided by their environment, what and how well they are doing, and how they feel about it. The six domains are:

  • Citizen Participation
  • Economic Opportunity
  • Education
  • Health
  • Information & Communications Technology
  • Safety and Security

Within these domains, indicators such as volunteer frequency, feeling about government, youth unemployment, youth income and wealth expectations, youth literacy, school enrollment, life expectancy, tobacco use, perceived stress levels, access to electricity, youth dependence on the Internet, trafficking, interpersonal violence among youth and road injuries are measured.

Generally, the report covers five main findings:

  • A large majority of the world's youth are experiencing low levels of wellbeing.
  • Even where young people are doing relatively well, they still face specific challenges and limitations.
  • Even where youth may not be thriving, they display success in certain areas.
  • How young people feel about their own wellbeing does not always align with what the objective data suggests.
  • Across countries, domain average scores indicate youth faring strongest in health and weakest in economic opportunity.

A significant majority of the young people covered in this report - 85 percent - live in countries demonstrating lower median and low youth wellbeing, while only 15 percent are living in countries in the upper ranks. But, wellbeing levels are spread within and between geographic regions, and among countries with varying income levels.

Of the countries analyzed, Australian youth enjoy the highest levels of wellbeing, and Nigerian youth the lowest levels. Colombia ranks highest in citizen participation and Mexico ranks near the bottom on safety and security, so patterns within the various domains are somewhat unpredictable.

Here are the top 15 countries in terms of global youth wellbeing according to this report:

  • Australia
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • United States
  • Japan
  • Spain
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • China
  • Brazil

Globally, while nearly half of young people are unemployed or underemployed, more than 120 million youth are illiterate, and over 40 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections occur among youth, young people also account for nearly 50 percent of the world's Internet users and 30 percent are "digital natives" having been online for at least five years. With this increased connectivity, it is predicted that young people will continue to benefit from greater information, inclusion and access to opportunities.

Finally, the report recommends the following:

  • Advance youth voices and participation. Evidence shows that policies and programs aimed at serving young people or improving youth outcomes are more effective and impactful when designed in consultation with them.
  • Promote deeper-dive and targeted research and analysis. More research and case studies in countries and regions could improve and strengthen the knowledge base around youth development and wellbeing.
  • Consider integrated policies and programs. The domains and indicators established for this report highlight the interconnectedness between indicators and across domains, which should encourage cross-sector policies and programs as well as more coordination among youth serving organizations and government agencies.
  • Advance the body of age-disaggregated and youth survey data. This report is a call to action for the collection of data on youth perceptions and outlooks on a global scale.

What do you think? Do these trends make sense to you? Let us know what you think by clicking here. Alternatively, you can follow me on Twitter at @timmcclimon and comment there. Thanks for reading and sharing this blog with friends and colleagues.

P.S. Did yohu know that there are an estimated 1.8 billion youth aged 10 to 24 on the planet today and another quarter of the world's population is under age 10?


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