A new study has revealed the best countries in the world to be aged 10 to 24. The Global Youth Wellbeing Index was released in early April 2014, ranking 30 countries based on factors such as economic opportunity, citizen participation, education, health, technology and safety. By researching 30 countries, this 44-page report exposed the varying conditions in which around 70% of the world’s young people are living.
This is the first report of its kind, and was produced by three very different groups, all of which are interested in improving outcomes for young people: the Centre for Strategic Studies, the International Youth Foundation and Hilton Worldwide. These three groups teamed up to find out more about the youth of today around the world and how their well being might affect the world's future. After all, youth make up about a quarter of the world’s population (or roughly 1.8 billion people). We've enumerated the 10 countries which have been assessed as the best possible places for teenagers to live as of 2014.
It's worth noting that the countries involved in this research included; Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Peru, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.
Well known around the rest of the world as a great place to be a tourist and soak up the sun, Thailand’s young people seem to be having great time too. Located in South East Asia, Thailand is the only country on this top 10 list that isn’t classified as “high income” by World Bank standards. Its poorest scores were in the areas of health, ICT and safety but it ranked very highly for economic opportunity. It’s a constitutional monarchy with over 60 million people, and its export-focused economy is growing, providing plenty of opportunities for young people.
9 Saudi Arabia
It’s great to be young in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This wealthy country of about 25 million people came in at number nine on the Global Youth Wellbeing Index, thanks to its high scores in the areas of health, education and technology. The Arab country is home to the second-largest oil reserves worldwide, plus huge natural gas reserves - so it’s unsurprising that its economy is strong and that it’s considered one of the 20 most powerful countries in the world. Saudi Arabia also has a huge youth population who will be able to cash in on the economy. About half of the country is comprised of people under the age of 25 currently, and most of them are primed to enter the workforce in the next decade.
With no thanks to its flailing economy, Spain is perhaps surprisingly still considered one of the best places on Earth to be young. This European country did very well in terms of health and education, but poorly in terms of economic opportunity and citizen participation. Its poor economic score relates largely to its economic crisis which has led to a high percentage of youth unemployment and many young people in the country are also out of education or training currently. In fact, Spain has faced record high levels of unemployment among young people in the past few years and some have been referring to today’s Spanish youth as the “lost” generation. And yet, the Mediterranean spirit and strong culture in Spain mean cities like Barcelona draw in many young people with cultural prowess and excellent beaches.
Japan scored extremely highly in this research in all areas except for citizen participation, where it had a lower score than countries such as Kenya, Morocco and Mexico. This country of about 127 million had a booming economy in decades past and although some of that success has petered off, it’s thought that recent devastating crises (such as the earthquake and tsunami of 2011) may be the catalyst for change. As reported by Forbes magazine earlier this year, today’s young people in Japan “will likely be hired by a company that does not yet exist” thanks to a huge volume of start-up businesses that will create plenty of new jobs. It’s worth noting too, that women are generally under-utilized in the Japanese workforce.
6 United States
The USA is the only part of the Americas that makes it onto this top 10 list and many readers may be surprised by this low sixth-place ranking. After all, people throughout the world are exposed to TV and movies that can make life in the USA look pretty darn great for young people (but there are some that aren’t so flattering, such as MTV's 16 And Pregnant). The USA had the best score of all countries in terms of providing economic opportunities for its young people. However, it’s worth noting that the USA scored lower on health than it did overall, partly due to its higher levels of stress, self-harm and smoking among teens.
This European economic powerhouse is well-deserving of its top-five ranking. It did particularly well in this report in the areas of health, economic opportunity and safety and security. Germany’s economy is one of the strongest in the world, with the fourth best GDP ranking globally. It has a skilled workforce and excellent public services, and teens will benefit from other things too. There’s Oktoberfest to look forward to, beer is pretty cheap all year, and Germany is close to some great tourist destinations. What’s more, we can be sure teens won’t be left waiting for the train or bus after school – Germany’s public transit system is notorious for running like clockwork.
4 United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is one of the best places in the world to grow up, according to this report. The UK boasts the third-strongest economy in Europe after Germany and France, and also has universal healthcare for its residents. Access to education is good in the UK and, on top of that, the UK is home to some of the world’s top universities such as Cambridge. The report’s author, Nicole Goldin, says that although the UK scores quite well overall, “we certainly see the effects of the recession and the global youth unemployment crisis on the attitudes of young people, who can feel negative about the future”. She refers to this as an “aspiration gap”.
3 South Korea
In reviewing the youth of South Korea for this report, researchers found that the country excelled most in the area of technology, getting a higher score than any other country. That’s not surprising, considering this East Asian country has established itself as a global hub for everything technology related (particularly new start-up business ventures). Its rate of broadband penetration is at 97% (a world leader) and its broadband speed is very fast (almost 50 megabits per second on average). South Korea is also a great place to get an education, consistently ranking among the world’s best countries for skills such as math, problem solving and science.
If you’re a young person growing up in Sweden, then consider yourself among the luckiest in the world. Coming in at the number two spot on this list of the best places to be a teenager, this country of almost 10 million ranked well across the board. Youths in Sweden benefit from a lot more than just the famous IKEA stores which have spread around the world. They get free education, great access to nature and the environment, strong internet access. Sweden places a high importance on children and young people politically and was the first country in the world to make beating or spanking a child a criminal offence.
Teens in Australia are having a better time than teens anywhere else on the planet. This paradise down under has a population of about 22 million, great weather, a strong economy, vibrant cities and positive outlook on life. Australia ranked highly in all factors considered by researchers, particularly excelling in the area of education. It also did well on the quality of its education, its job prospects, its safety and its healthy lifestyle.