Australia tops the first-ever Global Youth Wellbeing Index.

Next is Sweden.

South Korea

England

Germany

United States

Spain

Saudi Arabia

Thailand

2014-04-17

The Countries Where Youth Are Doing The Best And The Worst

Which countries are the best for people under 25—who now make up half the world's population?

Half of the world’s population is now under the age of 25, and 1.8 billion people are between the ages of 10 and 25. This is the largest youth generation ever to exist. Yet few well-being measures and metrics focus specifically on how this age group—the one that has fueled societal and governmental change around the globe in recent years—is faring and feeling about their lives.

The first Global Youth Wellbeing Index is an effort to provide baseline data so that countries can be compared and progress (or lack thereof) can be followed. At a time when nearly half of youth are unemployed or underemployed, this kind of tracking is more important than ever.

The Index, put together by the Center for Strategic International Studies, the International Youth Foundation and Hilton Worldwide, gauges 30 countries that represent about 70% of the world’s youth. It looks at six areas: citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, information and communications technology, and safety and security.

Overall, the Index report found that 85% of the youth represented in the 30 countries are experiencing "lower levels" of well-being than the average. Across the board, youth are strongest in health and weakest in economic opportunity. The results also show that well-being is subjective: Young people’s evaluation of their own well-being didn’t always align with the objective data.

Australia (score=0.752 out of 1) and then Sweden top the rankings; Nigeria, with a score of 0.375 out of 1, ranked the lowest of the 30. The top seven countries classified as "higher-income" by the World Bank, but income wasn’t always a predictor of rank. Russia (No. 25) and South Africa (No. 23) scored relatively low compared to their economic activity, showing that growth doesn’t always benefit a country’s entire population. Similarly, Vietnam (No. 11)—with strong policies—managed to outperform countries at similar income tiers.

The U.S., with 64 million youth—representing 20% of the country’s population—only came in sixth on the overall list, ranking first for economic opportunity, third for education and information technology access, but only eighth for safety, 12th for health and a poor 20th (just ahead of Vietnam) for citizen participation.

The index comes as the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals are set to expire in 2015, and as the global community evaluates its progress and follow-up opportunities. The report’s authors call this a "pivotal" moment. "Youth must be at the forefront of that global agenda," they write. "The Index can help us make that case."

View the full interactive map here to dive deeper into the data.

[Image: Youth protest, Milan via Stefano Tinti / Shutterstock]

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15 Comments

  • With Saudi Arabia coming in at 9 can we assume only young males were asked how they felt about their well-being, or if girls were asked did it have to be in the presence of a male relative?

  • Afza Laila Syed

    Well that is obviously just an assumption. And assumptions have no grounds, unless you can prove your statement its bs. So suck it.

  • As a Spanish College Teacher I am sorry to disagree. Although it is true that the Spanish youth lives relatively well I can see terrible threats for their wellbeing in the near future. They are victims of a universal but very low quality educational system and a labour market that penalizes young workers in the first steps of their carreers. Actually, more than 50% of people under 24 are jobless. I think this study makes conclusions on very high level macro data, thus telling a very partial story.

  • Jørge Campos

    I guess this confirms the study's accuracy, and what you see as "terrible threats" is obviously biased by your perception, in spain young workers get penalized, yes. In Mexico they get their leggs chopped off, in Turkey girls are arrested when smiling, in Thailand there is a military regime. Spanish youth's problems are just first world problems, i recommend you to have a wider view and probably that will even help you as the College Teacher you are, because youre probably transmitting your negative thoughts to your students and thats they worst thing they need right now.

  • Sara Kirby

    Where is Canada on the list? I'm willing to bet Canadian youth is better off than American youth in some respects. Does the study group Canada and the states together? If so, that wouldn't be accurate. This study has some holes obviously.

  • Jack From-Wales Stevens

    Please, it's the UK. Whenever you talk about Great Britain in global terms, you use UK, not England.

    My disappointment has now plunged the UK to 30... :-(

  • Adrian Bashford

    It wasn't ranked at all. If you look at available data (Commonwealth Youth Development Index - Sept 2013) it ranks just behind Australia.

  • Great write up Jessica, it's always interesting to compare past statics to current and try to see where things are headed based on studies like yours.

    You mentioned that the U.S. is ranked #3 in education which isn't aligned with data I've viewed from sources like UNESCO, The World Bank, and other studies. Are your rankings based on the 30 Countries that you've outlined here in this article?