Turkey’s youth ‘most stressed’ says global youth wellbeing index
Turkey has the highest amount of stressed youths, according to the International Youth Foundation’s second Global Youth Wellbeing Index of 30 countries released last week. Survey responses also positioned Turkish youths as having the second-lowest faith in their government’s duty of care and a comparatively poor perception of its education system.
Geographically straddling Europe and Asia, the country ranked 20th overall in the index created in partnership with Hilton and the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The statistical analysis, which includes data from the foundation’s 2016 Global Millennial Viewpoints Survey (GMVS) and selected questions from the Gallup World Poll, is designed to “measure the degree to which a young person’s environment supports their holistic success in education, health, economic opportunity and citizenship.”
Stressed out and sidelined
In coming top for stress levels, Turkey has a higher amount of youth stress than Jordan and a host of Asian countries including Japan, South Korea and China, as 72% of GMVS respondents indicated that their lives are too stressful.
Additionally, Turkey (with 42% in the GMVS) came second, only to Saudi Arabia’s 41% (far below the index average of 68%), in the perception that their government does not care about them.
Although the majority of youths in Turkey are pleased with their educational system (61%), this figure is well below the index average (71%), placing Turkey 26th in this area.
Decent macro measures marred by high youth unemployment
Turkey ranks 19th overall for economic opportunity. The country fares relatively well on macroeconomic measures such as GDP per capita (10th, at $11,522) and global competitiveness (17th), but faces several challenges around youth economic participation. Youth unemployment (at 18%) is high, as is the share of youths not in education, employment or training (25%).
Low participation levels may in future be boosted by rising early-stage entrepreneurial activity and youth borrowing from financial institutions, which, according to the index report, suggest that more young people may be creating their own jobs. The addition of financial education to the national curriculum under the National Development Plan for 2014-18 presents opportunities to enhance the economic agency of young people.
In addition, future hope can be found in the survey’s results pointing towards a high prevalence in the use of information and communication technology (ICT). As many as 78% of Turks use the internet and 56% of young people report having a computer at home with internet access, figures close to those from emerging markets such as Saudi Arabia and China.
Inequality among genders
The 2017 iteration of the index places particular emphasis on gender equality, an area in which Turkey ranks 24th. This low ranking is explained in the index report by the country’s low score for women’s civil liberties – as measured by the OECD’s Social Institutions and Gender Index – and somewhat high female youth marriage rate (10%).
The contradictions in Turkish society could be said to be encapsulated by the statistic that although 89% of young Turkish respondents to the viewpoints’ survey believe that women should have the same rights as men, 48% of young women fear walking alone at night.
Yet, despite a high prevalence of terrorist attacks across the country in 2016 and border pressures stemming from a flood of refugees from Syria that have created stresses within the economic system, Turkey ranks well – the third lowest among index countries – for the perception of safety: only 15% of GMVS respondents ranked violence at school or work among their top concerns.
Aside from this and the aforementioned finance-related positives, Turkey ranked 20th for democracy, as measured by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, and only a fraction (5%) of young people reported volunteering in the past month. Citizen participation in Turkey is driven down by the minimum age to run for office being 30.
Ultimately, despite the setbacks voiced through this survey, Turkish youths seem capable of retaining a positive outlook as 71% surveyed think that their standard of living will be better than that of their parents, a figure on a par with growing middle-income countries such as South Africa and Brazil.
The index ranked Sweden as having the least problems, achieving high scores in all but health, while Nigeria was the lowest-ranked country, where health represented its best ranking.
The countries in the index are home to 68% of the 1.8 billion young people aged between 15-29 worldwide. The purpose of the index is to identify where investments need to be made to ensure that the current generation of youth can thrive in a world with increasing challenges.
“Reconnecting youth is an urgent need … when half the world’s population is under 30,” states the index report. “As the global community works toward achieving the  Sustainable Development Goals, too many young people remain disconnected from vital skills, economic opportunities, local communities and national governments.”