What is the Youth Development Index?

The Youth Development Index (YDI) is a resource for researchers, policy-makers and civil society, including young people, to track progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) associated with youth development.

Youth development is a process that enhances the status of young people, empowering them to build on their competences and capabilities for life and enabling them to contribute and benefit from a politically stable, economically viable and legally supportive environment, ensuring their full participation as active citizens in their countries.

The 2020 YDI measures progress in 181 countries, including 48 of the 54 Commonwealth countries, across 6 domains of youth development: Health and Wellbeing, Education, Employment and Opportunity, Political and Civic Participation, Equality and Inclusion and Peace and Security. Changes in 27 indicators across the 6 domains are tracked over the period 2010–2018. Where indicators are used that refer specifically to the situation of the youth population, the definition of youth is of persons 15–29 years old, though data is sometimes available only for those 15–24 years old.

The methodology and indicators used to compile the YDI have been updated since the last report in 2016 and, for the first time, levels of Peace and Security and Equality and Inclusion are being measured. Full details of the indicators comprising the index and the methodology are found in Chapter 1 and Annex 1 of the Report.

How should we interpret the YDI?

The YDI score is a number between 0 and 1, with 1 representing the highest possible level of youth development attainable across all indicators. A score of 0, therefore, reflects little to no youth development. In Chapter 2 of the report, which outlines the overall and domain scores achieved by countries, reference is made to four levels of youth development – “very high”, “high”, “medium” and “low.” A country’s level of youth development is dependent on the country’s position relative to other countries on a spectrum of “relatively good” to “relatively poor.” This relative approach acknowledges that a score of 1 is idealistic and practically impossible and a score of 0 is also practically impossible.

The YDI is a tool that compares scores between countries and regions but does not provide insight on variations or inequalities in youth development within a country. It also does not measure every aspect of youth development – focusing instead on a core set of indicators that expert literature has shown heavily influences development outcomes for young people. There is a strong relationship between the YDI and most of the SDGs – meaning that countries that perform well on youth development also tend to have made greater progress towards the SDGs.

How should we use it?

The YDI allows us to take a temperature check on progress towards youth development in the world. Increasing or declining scores signal the need for further investigation and dialogue on the situation of young people and prompt action to scale up good practice or undertake reforms. It is not a definitive diagnosis or situation analysis of each country’s policies or programmes. However, it is an indication of collective progress or decline towards ensuring that young people are not left behind in the pursuit of the SDGs.

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Download the Youth Development Index

2020 Global Youth Development Index Report