Towards an SDG Youth Index | SDG Progress Report

26 August, 2022  |  SDG Localisation  ,  SDSN Youth   

This research project aims to evaluate the effectiveness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) framework in measuring progress towards sustainable development for young people.

The SDGs were designed as a blueprint for achieving global sustainable development, and include specific targets and indicators to measure progress. However, there has been limited attention given to the concerns of young people within the SDG framework. Do these goal reflect the opinions and needs of youth today? 

The project draws inspiration from previous attempts to measure progress towards the SDGs, such as the Sustainable Development Report and Transforming Australia. However, these reports have only briefly touch upon youth-related issues, with only one indicator specifically targeting young people in each. Given the need to address the concerns of young people in sustainable development efforts, this project seeks to build upon existing frameworks to evaluate the extent to which young people are being left behind.


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How we did it

The project involves consulting with young people from Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific to identify SDG targets that they believe are disproportionately impacting them. The identified targets are then used to develop youth-specific indicators, which are compared to indicators measuring progress towards the same targets for the general population.

Through this comparative analysis, the project aims to reveal the ways in which young people are being disproportionately impacted by sustainable development challenges, and to identify the ways in which the current SDG framework falls short in accounting for these challenges. The project also seeks to contribute to ongoing efforts to enhance the inclusion of young people in sustainable development initiatives.

The methodology employed in this project involves a mixed-methods approach, incorporating both quantitative and qualitative data. The project relies on both secondary data sources, such as national statistics and reports, and primary data collected through surveys, focus groups, and interviews with young people.

What we found

Disproportionate impact on youth

Young people are clearly differently affected by sustainable development challenges. Hence, it is important to undertake such a youth-disaggregated analysis on more indicators and all countries.

Our data analysis found that young people were disproportionately impacted by the following challenges: 

  • Poverty 
  • Psychological distress 
  • Suicide mortality rate 
  • Unemployment 
  • Rent overburden 
  • Homelessness

Limited data available 

There were many indicators for which we were not able to find disaggregated data for youth. Withsuch limited disaggregated data, policymakers and researchers have a significant ‘blind spot’ in the ways that age impacts people’s experiences of sustainable development. Hence, increased age disaggregation during data collection should be considered. 

We also found data from Pacific Islands nations was extremely limited, so more efforts need to be undertaken to collect data from the region.

Youth priorities and the SDGs

The youth that we consulted told us that the current SDG framework does not fully encapsulate their sustainable development goals. For example, they wanted more urgent action on many issues, more gender inclusive language and consistently wanted more youth engagement. Youth should be involved with any future iteration of the ‘global goals’.

Since we found that there is merit in undertaking youth-specific data analyses, we hope others can use our work to create a robust measurement tool that can be used internationally and regularly.

Hear from the authors of the report

Students we engaged with came from the following universities