Digging into the Global Youth Development Index (YDI); can we celebrate?
by Parakum Jayasinghe
October 31, 2016

The Commonwealth’s flagship report on youth, Global Youth Development Index (YDI) and Report – 2016 has ranked Sri Lanka as 31st with an overall score of 0.731 .

“YDI provides an evidence-based overview of the state of development for the nearly 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 15 and 30 in the world,” the Commonwealth says.

YDI is a composite index of 18 indicators that collectively measure progress on youth development in 183 countries, including 49 of the 53 Commonwealth countries.

Sri Lanka’s overall achievement is very important at this juncture of social development. Dr. Joseph Muscat,
Prime Minister of Malta and Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth himself explains it in the forward of the report. He says, “Young people see what is around them in a fresh light and itch to improve what is their inheritance – they are bubbly and full of inspiring ideas, and they have a strong voice and the ability to make a huge difference worldwide. It is therefore important that young people are empowered and given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Such a goal can only be achieved through investing in their skills, harnessing their energy, encouraging their ambitions, and providing opportunities to further their education and participation in their local – and by default often the global – economy.”

More than 60% of citizens in the nations of the Commonwealth are young people today. But Sri Lanka is the 12th country of the 49 Commonwealth nations in the index in terms of the lowest percentage of youth in the total population.

“Is our young population a driving force to determine Sri Lanka’s middle income status?” was the question raised in one of the Generation to Generation dialogues held in Colombo, a year ago, aiming to create an inclusive platform for both young and old, to contribute towards maximizing the demographic dividend.

Surely, we must celebrate this achievement. But, we must also dig into the report if we want to further improve our status.

Sri Lanka is a country with both increasing numbers of young people and declining fertility and so she has the potential to reap a demographic dividend. Sri Lanka’s youth population is roughly 22% of the total population now. But youth population is declining as a percentage. It was 29.6% of total population in 1981. The ageing population will outnumber the youth by mid-2020s and one fourths of Sri Lanka’s total population will be over 60 years of age by 2030. While celebrating the success, it is vital to consider the facts like this which is highlighted in the report: “YDI score for Sri Lanka and India improved by more than 10 per cent between 2010 and 2015. Sri Lanka had a significant drop in indicator score for NEET (a young person who is “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”).”

The report further says, “Young women are on average twice as likely to be NEET as young men. In South Asia, young women are almost four times more likely to be NEET as their male peers.”

These facts are more than enough to prove the importance of investing in youth and preventing the generation wasting away.

This report also opens our eyes to some crucial points which can be a disillusionment too.

The YDI has five domains to measure youth development. The rank Sri Lanka has achieved in each individual domain is mentioned next.

  1. Levels of education (Sri Lanka ranked 108)
  2. Health and well-being (Sri Lanka ranked 95)
  3. Employment and opportunity (Sri Lanka ranked 24)
  4. Political participation (Sri Lanka ranked 54)
  5. Civic participation among young people (Sri Lanka ranked 17)

We tend to think that Sri Lanka performs fairly well in terms of education, health and well-being. But the YDI ranks Sri Lanka 108 in education and 95 in health and well-being . Our neighbour Maldives is ranked 17 in terms of health and well-being. Pakistan is 77 and Nepal is 85 while Bhutan is 94, ahead of us.

Israel and Brunei, two nations which share rank number 31 with Sri Lanka perform far better than Sri Lanka. Israel is number one in health and well-being while Brunei is 13. Both countries are in 30s in terms of education. We can be really happy that Sri Lanka is well ranked with reference to employment and civic and political participation.

What can be the reason for the situation? The report says, “Still vast numbers of young people who lack basic literacy skills, and opportunities are restricted for a range of groups such as girls and young women, rural youth and young people with disabilities.”

This is what the report mentions about the health and well-being: “Although young people are often thought to be in the prime of health, many die from injury, road accidents, suicide, violence, communicable diseases (including HIV) and non-communicable diseases. Moreover, a large number suffer from illnesses and conditions that hinder their ability to grow and develop to their full potential. In order to develop positively, young people require access to good healthcare and, crucially, should engage in healthier practices to guard against premature death and diseases, and to ensure they will be healthy in adult life.”

We perform better in sectors such as civic participation, employment and opportunity about which we are not content locally.

The policymakers must study the indicators applied to rank the countries in YDI. (See Table 1.2 on page 14 of the report)

Issues related to secondary education, youth mortality, mental disorder rate and drug abuse may have pushed Sri Lanka to the back.


Parakum Jayasinghe
Blogging for Social Change
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