Young Australians more fortunate than peers

Written by Jane Lee and Jessica Howard 

Young Australians are living better lives than their peers around the world, a new index measuring youth wellbeing says.

Australia was ranked first out of 30 countries on the first Global Youth Wellbeing Index on Friday, followed by Sweden and South Korea. The index – established by two American think tanks, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the International Youth Foundation – measured the quality of life of people aged 12 to 24 according to a range of different indicators. These included citizen participation, economic opportunity, education, health, information and communications technology, safety and security.

It also assessed young people’s perceptions, including whether they were satisfied with their government.

<p> In an accompanying report, authors Nicole Goldin, Payal Patel and Katherine Perry said: “The Index assumes that quality wellbeing among youth results from the opportunities provided by their environment, what and how well they are doing and how they feel about it.”

They found that only about 15 per cent of young people in the 30 countries included in the index experienced high or above average levels of wellbeing that would “enable them to thrive and prosper”.

On a scale of 0 to 1, Australian young people scored highly at 0.752, compared with Nigeria in last place at 0.375.

While “high income” countries included the UK, Germany and the US made up the index’s top nine countries for wellbeing, other well-off countries such as Russia and South Africa did not fare as well, ranking 25th and 23rd respectively.

“The results … show that young people are not necessarily equally served and benefiting from strong economic growth,” the report stated. “Similarly, the overall results illustrate how policies and institutions can serve youth development needs even where resources may be more constrained, as in Vietnam (11th), which performs above its lower-middle-income peers.”

The index was created to fill the gap in research on the emotional and physical development of the world’s youth.

Sunny Cerff, 20, said she believed young Australians “could not be happier”.

“Kids and teens here are blessed to grow up in such a safe country. We have the opportunity to grow up and be whoever and whatever we want to be whilst living in a place with some of the most amazing beaches and cities in the world.”

Ms Cerff, who works in World Vision’s marketing team, said her job had taught her how privileged Australians were.

“Seeing how the majority of the world has literally no access to basic schooling has made me realise how awesome the education system is here. We grow up with skills and knowledgethat set us up for the rest of our lives,” she said.

“It’s great to be able to just figure out who you want to be, there’s no pressure, you don’t have to be an adult too soon. Even at 20 I feel like I’m still allowed to have a bit of childish fun.”
The only downside of being young? “Being belittled for being a young person … sucks. Not having my ideas and opinions taking seriously, that sort of thing.” Published in The Age, April 5 2014

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Sunny Cerff, 20-year-old St Kilda East Resident

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