The youth of today

The Commonwealth has launched an index to measure the development and empowerment of young people, with Australia coming out on top, and Canada and New Zealand close behind 

Of the two billion people in the Commonwealth’s 53 member countries, 60 per cent are under the age of 30. Recognising the importance of this demographic to every country’s future, the Commonwealth has launched the Youth Development Index (YDI), offering an inter-country comparison of the opportunities and living environment for young people, aged 15 to 29, across five key areas:

– Education
– Health
– Employment
– Civic participation
– Political participation

Although developed within the Commonwealth, the YDI goes far beyond the Commonwealth’s boundaries to include 170 nations in its first report. It is the first comprehensive attempt to aggregate global data on young people, and was devised to help decision-makers identify and learn from areas of success, pinpoint priority areas for investment and track progress over time. 

A country’s YDI score is a number between zero and one. For a country to receive a perfect score of one, it would represent the highest possible level of youth development attainable. A score of zero reflects, relatively speaking, little to absolutely no youth development. This scoring system is the same as the Human Development Index put together by the United Nations. In addition to having a score, countries are grouped as being ‘high’, ‘medium’ or ‘low’, giving an indication of whether a nation is good, average or poor in its achievements in relation to other countries. The methodology was developed by independent academic experts from across the Commonwealth, working with the Institute for Economics and Peace. 

Australia comes out on top overall with a score of 0.86, followed by Canada and South Korea. The Democratic Republic of Congo comes out lowest with a score of 0.17, with the Central African Republic and Côte d’Ivoire close behind. Some countries, including China, North Korea, and Kiribati were unable to be ranked due to inadequate data. 

Development is defined, for the purposes of the index, as “enhancing the status of young people, empowering them to build on their competencies and capabilities for life”. The idea behind recognising the need to invest in a country’s youth is that young people will be enabled to contribute to – and benefit from – a politically stable, economically viable and legally supportive environment, which will lead to their full participation as active citizens for the rest of their lives. 

Launching the YDI and its accompanying website and report in the autumn, Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba said: “The current demographic profile of the Commonwealth, with a significant youth bulge in most member states, makes it more vital than ever that we engage in practical action that matches the sense of urgency and impatience for change being expressed by younger generations. 

“The Commonwealth will continue to work with its member governments to develop and implement policies and programmes for the empowerment of young people.” 

A report on the YDI results can be downloaded from 

Youth development findings

The YDI measures youth development in 170 countries, including 50 of the 53 Commonwealth member countries. The key findings are:

– The countries with the highest overall YDI score in the Commonwealth are Australia, Canada and New Zealand, which are also some of the best performers globally

– Seventy per cent of Commonwealth countries are classified as having medium youth development, with 13 per cent classed as having high youth development

– Some low- and middle-income countries out score higher-income countries

– Democracies score considerably better than authoritarian regimes

– The average youth unemployment rate in Commonwealth countries is 22.9 per cent, compared to the global average of 19.2 per cent

– The prevalence of HIV among young people in Commonwealth countries is 2.1 per cent – two and a half times the global average


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