Global Youth Wellbeing Index

A major challenge of our time is to insure that “this transformative generation” of youth—a quarter of the world’s population, has the resources they need to thrive. The approach of positive youth development points to strengths such as examples of youth who make a difference: William Kamkwamba from Malawi (The Boy who Harnessed the Wind, 2009), Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Pakistani education advocate Malala Yusafzai. Because information about youth is lacking or fragmented, “the needs of young people often remain unexposed and marginalized by their complexity.”[1] To begin to correct the “data gap” about the 1.8 billion global youth with its too “narrow line of inquiry,” three organizations sponsored a report on The Global Youth Wellbeing Index in 2014. Researchers drew from data representing almost 70% of global youth that revealed a large majority of youth aged 10 to 24 experience lower levels of wellbeing. Only 15% of youth experience high or upper-middle well being, correlated to their countries’ income levels, but African and some Asian countries have a positive youth outlook and Uganda a has high levels of youth entrepreneurship.[2]

Youth health measures are the strongest asset, although over 40% of new HIV/AIDS infections occur among youth and high-income countries tend to have higher levels of stress and self-harm. The main cause of death for young people is traffic accidents. Economic opportunity is the weakest asset: Nearly half the youth are unemployed or underemployed and 120 million are illiterate.[3] Australian youth have the highest levels of wellbeing, followed by Sweden, South Korea, the UK, Germany, and the US in sixth place. Nigeria is the lowest of the 30 countries studied, preceded by Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, India, and Russia at the bottom of the rankings. Columbia is the highest in citizen participation, but too often participation is “reduced to a playground for democracy without real impact.”[4] The report concludes that youth should be involved in creating youth policies and programs; the UN’s Millennium Development Goals that expired in 2015 should include a youth empowerment goal.

[1] Nicole Goldin, The Global Youth Wellbeing Index, Center for Strategic & International Studies and International Youth Foundation, April 2014, p. ix.

[2] Goldin, p. 12.

[3] Goldin, p. 2.

[4] Goldin, p. 16.


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