Youth development continues to be a matter of national importance, with 6.3 million people between 10-29 years old living in Australia. This is the first national holistic measure of the status of young people in Australia and is designed to inform policy and a tool for advocacy.
This inaugural Australian Youth Development Index (YDI) analyses the state of youth development across the country and changes since 2006. This is part of the Commonwealth Youth Programme initiative to increase focus on youth development through presenting and collecting relevant data. It complements the international Youth Development Index which measures the status of 15-29 year- olds in 170 countries according to five key domains: Education, Health and Well-being, Employment, Civic Participation and Political Participation.
The YDI was designed by a technical advisory committee with members from the Institute for Economics and Peace, the University of Canberra, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare, the University of Victoria and Youth Action.
What is the YDI?
The Youth Development Index (YDI) is a composite index which collectively measures youth development. The YDI has five domains that measure levels of Education, Health and Wellbeing, Employment and Opportunity, Political Participation and Civic Participation for young people.
The YDI provides researchers, policymakers, young people, and civil society with a resource to compare jurisdictions on their relative levels of youth development and to see where youth are doing well and where improvement is needed to boost levels of youth development.
The YDI defines youth development as:
“enhancing the status of young people, empowering them to build on their competencies and capabilities for life. It will enable them to contribute and benefit from a politically stable, economically viable, and legally supportive environment, ensuring their full participation as active citizens in their countries.”
How can the YDI be used?
Youth development is a multidimensional concept that can be better understood via an aggregation of several indicators. Many governments, NGOs and youth service providers publish data on specific aspects of youth development but do not give the holistic picture of youth development that is possible with an index. By compiling the available stock of data into one comprehensive and harmonised measure, the YDI enables users to gain a better understanding of youth development in a single ‘snapshot’.
The research that has informed the index also informs users of where there are key gaps in data and where data collection efforts need to be better focused. Sub-national data on youth can help at least with the following:
- Telling a localised story of the state of youth across the country
- Providing better evidence, leading to better-informed and better-designed policy, and improved targeting and allocation of resources
- Identification of drivers of youth development and positive youth perceptions at national level
- Building the evidence to show policy impact over time
- Complementing of other leading metrics
The key findings from the Australian YDI include:
- There are large variations in the performance of states and territories in overall youth development, with the Australian Capital Territory having the highest YDI score whereas the Northern Territory has a score over three times lower.
- Since 2006, all states and territories have seen an improvement in youth development. The lone exception is Tasmania which had a seven per cent deterioration. The Northern Territory experienced the biggest change, with a 30 per cent improvement.
- Political Participation has seen the largest improvements nation-wide since 2006.
- Health and Wellbeing has seen the most significant deterioration in score over ten years. All states and territories bar the NT saw a decline on this domain score.
- There is a large developmental gap between urban and rural youth. In all states and territories, the percentage of youth not engaged in education, employment or training is significantly higher for rural youth than for urban youth.
- Indicators which can be disaggregated based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) status show there is a large developmental gap for youth that identify as Indigenous. For example, suicide rates are much higher for Indigenous youth than non- Indigenous youth at a national level.