Accelerating Pathways Youth Economic Strategy Index 2015
The Youth Economic Strategy (YES) Index seeks to provide policymakers, business leaders and other stakeholders with comprehensive and comparative data on the economic situation of youth in the 35 cities it covers. The index aims to inspire policymakers, the private sector and civil society to improve opportunities for youth aged 13 to 25. Are cities providing the enabling environment that supports the economic aspirations of youth? Are they making the proper investments and policy decisions to support youth and enable them to reap youth-driven dividends in the future? These are some of the questions the index seeks to answer.
Toronto comes first overall in the index, but many cities are clustered near the top. This reflects the wider phenomenon that most urban areas, including those with low overall scores, have some strengths. What sets the leaders apart is consistency across all areas of the index—an acknowledgement that improving opportunities for youth requires a multifaceted approach, not a narrow set of policies.
The index assesses policies and conditions for youth across four domains: Government Support and Institutional Framework for Youth; Employment and Entrepreneurship; Education and Training; and Human and Social Capital. As a starting point, the index assembles and analyses existing data on the environment for youth in this key group of cities, but it also introduces newly created indicators, such as “Local government support for youth” and “Presence and effectiveness of youth networks”. The index also includes, for the first time, the results of a new survey of youth attitudes in these urban areas. Surprisingly, the cities that rank at the top of the index are not necessarily home to the most optimistic young people. At the same time, cities that are growing the fastest economically have the highest levels of optimism, which is no surprise at all—fastgrowing cities create the jobs and opportunities that motivate young people.
The index also reveals that money matters more than geography when examining the youth economic environment as a whole. Despite some index indicators showing a strong regional influence on scores, the GDP per capita of cities has a much greater effect in statistical terms, explaining a variation of about 84% between cities. The link is tightest in the areas of Education and Training, and Human and Social Capital.
Policy nevertheless makes a difference in shaping the overall youth economic environment. This may be harder to see in the data, as all too often economically struggling cities do not adopt even the policies that they can afford. Yet certain cities, most notably Toronto and Johannesburg, do far better than might be expected based on their GDP per capita alone. These cities have in common strong scores in the policy field. Examples of initiatives from these cities and other leaders suggest that inventiveness and willingness to work with a range of stakeholders are important elements of success.
A large proportion of youth from the 35 cities covered are optimistic and open to starting or running their own firms. Most cities are able to provide certain key requirements, such as access to financing and technology. Wealthier cities, however, have better scores overall on those index indicators that deal most closely with entrepreneurship. These have a large policy element, suggesting that this is one area on which cities with lower GDP per capita might focus in particular to improve the economic environment for young people.
Targeted youth policies and engaged stakeholders, operating together, can do the most to help cities tap into the aspirations of youth, which can yield benefits for the wider population. Failing to do so could come at more than a purely economic cost. High levels of youth optimism in emerging-market cities hold both promise and danger. Youth in the developing world are ready to build the future, but if conditions were to prevent this, then disillusionment could quickly turn hope into resentment.
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