Young, engaged and valued: Singapore youth take top spot in global index

May 08, 2024 - 16:16
Singapore is the only Asian country in the top 10 rankings; all the others are European nations.


The global survey of youth development measures the status of young people and their competence, capabilities and economic opportunities for full participation as active citizens in their countries. Photo The Straits Times/ANN

SINGAPORE Singapore came in first in a global survey of youth development which measures the status of young people and their competence, capabilities and economic opportunities for full participation as active citizens in their countries.

The Republic ranked best on overall youth development not only among the Commonwealth’s 56 member nations but also in comparison with 182 nations worldwide. The Global Youth Development Index Report was compiled and just released by the Commonwealth, an international association of sovereign states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire.

On a global level, the survey found that Singapore enjoyed the highest level of youth development in 2023, followed by Denmark, Portugal, Iceland and Slovenia.

Singapore is also the only Asian country in the top 10 rankings; all the others are European nations.

Among Asian member-states of the Commonwealth, Singapore was followed by Brunei and Malaysia, which came in second and third, respectively.

“The report examines the extent to which young people are learning, earning and living healthy, engaged and peaceful lives. It also shows whether they are living in societies that value their views, include their perspectives, and recognise their contributions,” said Baroness Patricia Scotland, a prominent British lawyer who currently serves as the Commonwealth’s secretary-general.

Singapore’s achievement is made even more substantial because the Commonwealth survey is based on statistical data sets going back to 2010, and Singapore has maintained its top position since the publication of a previous comparable study in 2020.

In 2023, the world’s population stood at just over eight billion people, of whom roughly a quarter were 15- to 29-year-olds.

However, among Commonwealth member-states, with a combined population of 2.5 billion people, more than 60 per cent were under 30 years old.

Youth development remains, therefore, a key objective for the organisation, and the Youth Development Index (YDI) is designed to offer essential comparative data to governments and policymakers.

“By measuring (young people’s) contributions and needs with hard data, our advocacy for their development becomes more powerful,” said Ms Scotland.

The YDI defines youth as persons aged 15 to 29, though the survey sometimes had to rely on national data available only for those aged 15 to 24.

The 2023 YDI sought to measure progress in 183 countries on six domains of development: education, employment and opportunity, equality and inclusion, health and well-being, peace and security, and political and civic participation.

Changes in 27 indicators across these six domains were tracked over 12 years from 2010 to 2022. Each indicator was provided with a YDI score, which is a number between zero and one, with one representing the highest possible level of youth development attainable across all indicators, and a score of zero reflecting little to no youth development.

The YDI relied on comparable country data from the respective countries’ national statistics agencies, international sources such as the World Bank and the United Nations, and comparative statistical work conducted by the Institute for Economics and Peace, a global think-tank headquartered in Australia.

Singapore’s first position was secured by an overall YDI score of 0.868. South Korea is the only other Asian country to feature in the top 20 nations in the survey, occupying 16th place with a score of 0.824.

Brunei is ranked 27th globally, with a score of 0.810, while Malaysia is assessed as 35th in the world, with a 0.802 score.

The YDI has found that India had the highest growth in youth development over the past year, improving its score by an impressive 8 percentage points, followed closely by the African states of Zambia, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Togo.

The study also commends Brunei as being “among the countries that have moved the most places up the ranks relative to other Commonwealth countries” since the previous YDI report issued in 2020.

But there were also disappointments. Although both Nigeria (No. 172) and Papua New Guinea (No. 159) have improved their YDI scores since 2010, they remain among the lowest-ranked Commonwealth countries in terms of youth opportunities and have fallen in relation to other Commonwealth nations.

Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony in Africa that became the first nation with no previous British historical link to join the Commonwealth in 1995, remains the lowest-ranked country at 177th, despite improving its YDI score by 2.4 percentage points since 2010.

Overall, however, the study says that the Commonwealth’s youth appear to be faring much better. Youth employment has recovered after the pandemic, and considerable progress has also been recorded in education; the Commonwealth’s average score for school completion has improved by over 6 percentage points in comparison with 2010.

Furthermore, fewer girls in the Commonwealth are getting married before the age of 18, another statistic indicating greater scope for personal improvement and social mobility.

In the equality and inclusion domain – a category that measures, among other things, gender parity in literacy and a feeling of safety in the local community – the YDI identified South Asia as the region with the highest levels of improvement since 2010.

Interestingly, given persistent claims that the young show little interest in formal political engagement, the YDI records improvements in political and civic participation, including a significant rebound in the number of young people volunteering for community service.

“This could potentially be reflective of increased civic engagement by young people as a part of COVID-19 response initiatives,” the authors of the study speculated.

Still, “the report also shows us that while progress is real, it is uneven, with significant disparities between countries and within regions”, said Ms Scotland, the Commonwealth boss.

“And let me be absolutely clear: The best way to raise up our young people is to empower them; to let their passion and creativity guide our work with fresh ideas, impetus and inspiration,” she added. The Straits Times/ANN