Global Youth Wellbeing Index: Our Two Cents

With half of the world’s population under the age of 25, much attention is now being focussed on the need to address youth needs and ensure they fulfil their potential.

A new report, compiled by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), assesses the wellbeing of young people in 30 high-to-low income countries across 40 indicators.

The Global Youth Development Index then ranks each country across six domains of youths’ lives: citizen participation, education, health, economic opportunity, information and communications technology, and safety and security.

RealStart chief executive officer, Jonathan Stanton-Humphreys, takes a closer look at how South Africa faired in the report and discusses why the nation’s current political environment is hindering its economic growth.

“In the first ever Global Youth Wellbeing Index, South Africa was ranked 23rd out of 30 countries, with Australia topping the list. It is easy with stats like these to lose sight of their underlying message, so lets take a quick look:

  • (23) South Africa's population: 51,19 million, GDP: $384,3 billion.
  • (1) Australia population: 22,68 million, GDP: $1,521 trillion.
  • (2) Sweden population: 9,517 million, GDP: $525,7 billion.
  • (3) South Korea population: 50 million, GDP: $1,13 trillion.
  • (6) United States of America population: 313 million, GDP: $15,68 trillion.

Based on those figures, the message is clear: creating hope, involvement, and opportunities for youth is all about good governance and money spend per capita. Australia has four times the income, but half the population to spend it on; not to mention that it is largely a mono-cultural (multi-ethnic) country. By contrast, South Africa is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic country with one of the worst GINI coefficients in the world, making the government spend very difficult.

South Africa is still battling with the clash between redress and development. There is a legacy of Apartheid that must be accounted for, but there is also an economy that must be grown.There are poor that need upliftment, but there is infrastructure and policy that needs development to grow the economy. There are low income workers that need to be protected and supported, but there are businesses that need to remain competitive in a global free-market economy.

Ultimately the way these two elements are dealt with in South Africa is determined by the quest for political power.The logical argument is that if we are aggressive about developing the economy the upliftment of people will follow naturally in a well governed environment. A clear example is China (ranked 14th in the survey), whose population has benefited greatly from its economic boom.However, the path of long-term economic growth that benefits the people is exactly that, long-term. For the current ruling party in South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), long-term policies are tantamount to political suicide. They have created an electorate that has become used to immediate solution rhetoric. Every four years, election campaigns are filled with massive economic growth promises, such as job-creation, and every four years very little is delivered.

Over the past 20 years of the ANC’s rule, there has been zero net job creation. However, our social spend has climbed to 50 percent of national budget, with 18 million people on grants. It is a political policy of easy appeasement versus long-term solutions. If we continue to follow this path, we will arrive at a point in time some 30 years in the future where we will talk of the legacies of the ANC-heid; of hope and promise destroyed for the price of political power.”

To read the full report, refer to www.youthindex.org.

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