WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nigeria is the worst country for young people to prosper despite its relatively high national income and Australia is the best, according to a new index on the well-being of global youth launched on Thursday.
The Global Youth Wellbeing Index is the first of its kind to focus broadly on the quality of the lives of 1.8 billion young people aged between 10 and 24, whose prosperity is viewed as essential to building stable societies and who will shape the economic future of the world.
“Youth compromise a quarter of the world’s population but remain an under-utilised source of innovation, energy and enthusiasm in global efforts to achieve and promote the increased well-being of all,” said the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, which published the index.
The challenges facing youth globally are daunting. Nearly half of young people today are unemployed or underemployed, more than 120 million are still illiterate and over 40 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections occur among youth, CSIS said.
For its index, the center measured 30 countries which together compromise 70 percent of youth globally and used 40 publicly available data sets in six spheres – economic opportunity, health, education, safety and security, access to information technology, and citizen participation.
The top-scoring countries were all in the high-income category, namely Australia, Sweden, South Korea and the United Kingdom, while the bottom four countries were all in sub-Saharan Africa – Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
The index found that national wealth alone was no determinant of young people’s well-being.
For example, Nigeria scored worst despite the oil-rich nation’s relative wealth because it failed on education and safety, and scored near the bottom on health and economic opportunity.
Russia also performed poorly. Despite being a high-income country, the youth index gave it an overall ranking of 25 out of 30 countries, behind South Africa and Egypt.
In contrast Vietnam, which like Nigeria is ranked a lower middle income country by the World Bank, took the 11th place, reflecting its strong measurements in the areas of health and economic opportunity.
William Reese, president of International Youth Foundation and one of the sponsors of the index, said the findings provide important information that can help shape policy debate on how to meet the World Bank and United Nation’s goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
“It cannot happen unless there is economic growth that brings young people into the economy so that they are working their way out of poverty,” Reese said at the index’s launch in Washington, D.C.
“We have to get 2 billion people out of poverty and that has to come from young people.”
While country specifics differ, the ranking highlights the important role that investing in healthcare can play toward people’s future well-being.
“Health underpins every aspect of adolescent development. Without health the transitions through education to employment, civic engagement and parenthood will fail,” George Patton, professor of adolescent health research at the University of Melbourne, said in the report.