Announcing the 2021 Youth Progress Index

On June 10th, we released the 2021 Youth Progress Index results, which is the most comprehensive measure of the quality of life of young people in more than 150 countries around the world.  The Index comprises 58 social and environmental indicators and covers a ten-year time series with data from 2011 to 2020. 

Together with the European Youth Forum, the Social Progress Imperative hosted a live virtual forum to discuss the findings of the Index and the reality of young people today. Civil society organisations, youth activists and policy-makers, including Aditi Maheshwari, Maria Walsh, Valentina Pop, Darius Baxter and Joanna Drake, discussed the impact of Covid-19 and the climate crisis on this generation of youth.

The Index enables public authorities and civil society organisations to systematically identify and prioritise the most pressing needs of young people, remove barriers to their wellbeing and prosperity, and provide the resources needed to shape a fairer society for youth. It offers a practical framework for evidence-based policymaking and data to support civil society advocacy in order to drive faster and more sustainable progress for young people. The Youth Progress Index report finds: 

  • Over the past ten years, 65 countries have improved their Youth Progress performance significantly, while another 65 countries have seen some improvement. Ten countries have stalled, and six have declined since 2011.
  • If the world were a country, it would have a score of 65,78 and be ranked between Kyrgyzstan and Tunisia in 75th position.
  • Norway ranks first in the world on youth progress with a score of 95.80.
  • Overall, European Union Member States do well in terms of their performance, falling within the first 47 positions of the global ranking.
  • Over the last ten years, a typical young citizen of the world has seen huge improvements in their Access to Information and Communications (+22,75). However, they have faced increased barriers in accessing their Personal Rights (-4,25).
  • The Youth Progress Index has a strong positive relationship with economic performance; above $10,000, however, GDP becomes less of a determining factor of youth progress.

Overall, a typical young citizen of the world is most likely to live in a big city where air pollution is a serious risk to their health, with an Environmental Quality score of 38,67. They face social exclusion, with an Inclusiveness score of 54,17. In addition to age-based discrimination, they face multiple discrimination based on other aspects of their identity, whether gender, ethnicity, or sexual preferences. They face barriers in terms of their opportunities to realise their potential and take part in society. They are under-represented in politics and generally face obstacles in accessing their personal rights (55,23), and have restricted personal freedoms (59,67).

A focus on sustainability

These are just some of the findings from the Index. This year, the Youth Progress Index also includes a Sustainability-Adjusted Index, which is a first-time innovation to the SPI framework. Sustainability is one of the greatest challenges facing every society, above all the youngest generations, who will bear the most devastating consequences of an existential crisis they did not create. By including four environmental indicators (climate change, material footprint, biodiversity loss and land-system change), the order of the Index rankings shifted quite significantly; countries in the first tier, meaning the top-ranking countries on youth progress, have had the most serious declines in their scores once adjusted for environmental sustainability. Countries in tier five tend to see their scores improve, relative to the unadjusted index. This trend points to the role that countries in the first tier––which tend to be wealthier–– play in global environmental damage and climate change, while countries in the lower tiers disproportionately suffer the consequences. 

Beyond measurement

More than just a measurement, the Youth Progress Index is a crucial step in rethinking the nature of progress and the just society, but it is also a critical catalyst for action. It enables public authorities, businesses, and civil society organisations to systematically identify and prioritise the most pressing needs of young people, remove barriers to their wellbeing and prosperity, and provide the resources needed to shape a fairer society for youth. It offers a framework for evidence-based policy making, and data to support civil society advocacy and business leaders in focusing their investment decisions. The Youth Progress Index aims to help institutions and young leaders alike to push society in the right direction, centreing the wellbeing of youth and the planet. 

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