THE BLOG
04/18/2014 10:15 am ET Updated Jun 14, 2014

Measuring the Wellbeing of Young People: A Real Step Forward

"You can't manage what you can't measure," says the CEO of Hilton Worldwide, Chris Nassetta. And he should know. His company is a leader in the travel and hospitality industry -- the world's largest employer. Over the next decade, the hospitality sector is projected to create some 75 million jobs, and most of them will need to be filled by young people hoping to start their careers.

In this highly competitive global market, Hilton needs relevant data around workforce development and economic indicators to invest its resources in ways that will help grow the company and the industry. As the CEO of a global nonprofit committed to expanding economic opportunities among today's young people, I too must have the necessary information to strategically direct the organization's efforts to support programs where they are most needed and can deliver the greatest impact. Yet for most leaders of companies, governments and civil society organizations, that information -- so critical to making smart choices and investments -- is simply not available or woefully inadequate.

Recently, Chris and I and other global leaders launched a brand new measurement and information tool that we've long been seeking in the form of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index. The Index is a joint initiative of the International Youth Foundation (IYF), Hilton Worldwide, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). It's the first comprehensive look at the challenges facing young women and men today, presented through the lens of six interconnected areas: citizen participation, economic opportunity, health, education, information and communication technology, and safety and security.

Why is this Index a big deal? Today, more than 600 million young people are not working or studying, or even looking for jobs that could help them support themselves and their families. Meanwhile, a growing number of CEOs--64 percent in a recent survey -- are unable to find qualified workers to fill much needed jobs. The challenge to address this global employment crisis and the skills mismatch will be made much easier when we not only know what makes young people productive, healthy and civically engaged, but also use that knowledge to develop and invest in programs that help them succeed in life and build their futures.

Young people are an enormous source of energy and creativity that has the potential to solve some of the world's greatest challenges. The Index will help all of us make wiser decisions around how to tap into that extraordinary resource. Global companies in urgent need of skilled workers will know where the training gaps are, and better allocate their resources to build a skilled workforce. Foundations interested in expanding digital literacy can learn in which countries young people are most dependent on the Internet. Governments will find out where youth feel they don't have a voice, and work to expand civic engagement opportunities. Policy makers will know whether a country needs to invest more in primary or secondary school enrollment. The Index will also help young people themselves become real advocates in shaping the programs and policies that will help them prosper.

While this Index is a strong start to collecting and sharing the data needed to more effectively implement a global youth agenda, gaps in our knowledge of youth wellbeing still exist and further investments will be needed to fill those voids and measure progress over time.

There are no silver bullets when it comes to solving the world's youth unemployment crisis and closing the skills gap that stifles so many businesses. But we are hopeful that this Index will make our collective work easier -- by promoting a more informed body of work and an expanded global conversation that will lead to new opportunities for this younger generation to truly transform their lives, and ours.