Announcing the South Africa Youth Progress Index

The Social Progress Index Framework, including the indicators used for the South Africa Youth Progress Index

Last week, our partners at IQ Business released the South Africa Youth Progress Index (YPI): the first subnational tool which evaluates the current state of youth based on non-economic and outcome-based measures from 2013 to 2018. The YPI uses 48 indicators—across the three conceptual dimensions and 12 components of the Social Progress Index Framework—to map young people’s quality of life in the nine provinces of South Africa. The YPI can be used to understand disparities in youth social progress (generally persons aged between 14-35) and track changes over time. Data can allow action to be turned into tangible impact and the YPI provides the basis to do just that for the young people of South Africa. Now more than ever, with the Covid-19 crisis adding pressure to already struggling societies, it is important to understand the lived experience of our youth.

“It is shocking to me that though social progress in South Africa has improved since 2013, the new report by IQ Business shows that youth progress has deteriorated over the same period. We have a unique opportunity now to build back better in a way where everyone can benefit, using data driven tools to catalyze change.”

Michael Green, CEO of the Social Progress Imperative

In spite of increases in overall social progress in South Africa over the past 5 years, the YPI shows that youth have not reaped the full benefits of this advancement. Overall, the Western Cape is one of the highest scoring provinces with a social progress score of 61.20 in 2018. However, it has also seen one of the greatest declines in youth progress since 2013 (-11.09). The North West province is the only region that has improved, albeit minutely, on youth progress over the past 5 years. In 2013 it scored 48.25 points on the YPI and then scored 48.87 points in 2018. This change, while positive, is small and signifies the general stagnation and decline of social progress for the youth of South Africa.

Visual Depiction of South Africa Youth Progress Index Results by Province

The dimension of Opportunity has seen some of the least development for youth. The province of Gauteng scores the highest on this component with a score of 56.86 points, while the Eastern Cape scores the lowest (36.01). Nine provinces of South Africa scored better on the dimensions of the Foundations of Wellbeing and Basic Human Needs. However, provincial scores on both dimensions highlight persistent inequalities which indicate substantial disparity in youth experience across the country. For example, the Western Cape is the highest scoring province for Foundations of Wellbeing (77.55), while the lowest scoring province, the Northern Cape, scores more than 30 points less with a score of 44.65 points.

These findings paint a unique picture of South Africa’s youth. The brushstrokes show that progress is uneven and the opportunities for success and advancement do not extend to the young people of the country in the same way they do to the general population. This information is particularly important given the relatively large youth population in South Africa: 65% of the population is below 35 years of age according to Statistics South Africa Mid-Year Population Estimates for 2019. Additionally, due to the Covid-19 pandemic social progress is already declining and the virus will likely have a disparate impact on the quality of life for young people around the world. While they may have lower mortality rates, they face potentially derailed careers and educational upheaval. The YPI helps ensure that the challenges that specifically face the youth of South Africa can be addressed by revealing where inequalities and issues exist. This information can also be used to help provinces learn from each other and do more to support their youth with the resources that they have.

To learn more about the South Africa YPI visit Additional information on the Social Progress Imperative as well as other indexes and initiatives can be found at:

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