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Europe: frozen progress for young people in the past 10 years


New data published today by the European Youth Forum and the Social Progress Imperative find that Europe made very little progress since 2011 on youth rights and wellbeing, and no progress at all since 2018.

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Rafael Shilhav

Two European countries are among the five that have made no progress over the past decade: the UK and France, joined by New Zealand, Australia and South Sudan. Globally, Europe is second-worst only to North America, where youth progress is in decline.

The new Youth Progress Index is the most comprehensive measurement of young people’s wellbeing, freedoms and rights around the world, measuring 60 aspects such as affordable housing, access to education, violent incidents and young women’s safety. It ranks over 150 countries on their performance, and it also measures changes between 2011 and 2022.

Across all of Europe, the data indicates repeated failure in young people’s satisfaction with availability of affordable housing. In France, satisfaction with housing decreased by almost 25 points between 2011 and 2022. Additionally, France is underperforming on access to secondary education, where it ranks 48th globally.

The United Kingdom has experienced the most evident stall in youth progress, with nearly half (45%) of young British citizens not satisfied with the availability of affordable housing. Decreased satisfaction is also evident regarding healthcare, air and water quality. Notably, the UK has demonstrated a decline in freedom of peaceful assembly, academic freedom, discrimination and violence against minorities.

In response to the findings, Andreea-Alexandra Scrioșteanu, Board Member of the European Youth Forum, said:

“Across Europe, governments are failing young people. Progress depends on the amount of public investment in youth, and how high young people rank on the political agenda. In the absence of both sufficient investment and political will, our generation is being left behind.

“Even if rich countries are ranking high compared to others, there is still much to improve. We should have seen far more investment in social and economic parameters, especially affordable housing and mental wellbeing. Europe’s backsliding on democracy and young people’s personal freedoms is equally worrying.”

Not all of Europe has stalled though. In the last 12 years, Serbia, Moldova and Albania are among the best improvers. In Albania the most significant improvements are related to young people’s access to information and communications, as well as access to advanced education. Moreover, availability of suitable housing has also increased. Similarly, in Serbia access to online governance has improved and so has satisfaction regarding affordable housing and internet access. Young Serbian women are also feeling safer than 12 years ago. In Moldova, secondary school attainment, access to online governance and access to advanced education have all been made more accessible for young people.

Global progress, but some left behind

Over the past decade, other parts of the world have made huge leaps. Two Asian countries, Nepal and Uzbekistan, made the most improvement in youth progress since 2011 (+10.6 and +9.6 points, respectively). Uzbekistan in particular has significantly exceeded the average results of its economic peers. Both countries, however, are lagging far behind in safeguarding personal and political rights and struggling with environmental quality concerns.

Seven countries’ progress on youth issues has declined in 2022. Five of them (Venezuela, Syria, Libya, Central African Republic and Lebanon) are suffering from chronic crises, and their absolute Youth Progress Index score ranks low. The other two countries suffering from decline are the United States and Canada, which show similar trends to Europe: high dissatisfaction with the availability of affordable housing and decline in mental wellbeing. In the US, the score also dropped due to concerns relating to discrimination and violence against minorities (-35.5 points), political rights (-15 points) and academic freedom (-13.9 points).

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