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August 11, 2014

How Canadian Youth Would Change the World: A Celebration of International Youth Day

In public debates over environmental, economic and social issues around the world, some of the most important voices have yet to be heard: the voices of our youth. For over a century, Boys and Girls Clubs have been helping young Canadians discover, develop and achieve their best potential as they grow to become the nation’s adults, citizens and leaders. In 2013, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada (BGCC) and GlobeScan joined forces to better understand global issues of concern to young Canadians, and what differences the future generation would make if given the chance.

This initiative, called “The World According to Us”, was an astounding success. Of the 3,000 Canadian children and youth surveyed, the environment (45%), violence, crime and war (35%), and the economy (32%) emerged as the top issues of concern.

The youngest cohort surveyed (between the ages of 8 and 12) believe that the environment is the most important issue facing the global society and said global warming and pollution worry them the most. When asked how they would solve these challenges, the children reported that they would raise awareness of the effect of global warming and pollution on people's and the planet’s well-being. They would raise awareness about the importance of green living; start initiatives that promote a reduction in both waste and pollution; institute new policies that align with environmental initiatives (e.g., Kyoto); enforce monetary penalties for corporate pollution; and re-invest capital toward renewable and alternative energy sources.

The middle cohort, between the ages of 13 and 17, believes the most pressing issue facing our global society is violence and war. When asked what measures they would take to stop war, Canadian teenagers said that providing help and guidance to those at risk of waging war, working together with other nations to find peaceful solutions, and implementing a stronger police presence in areas at risk for war will prevent and/or reduce the number of wars waged in this world.

The oldest cohort (between the ages of 18 and 24) is poised to become the nation’s leaders. This group believes that the strength of the economy is the most important issue facing our world, specifically with regards to the effect on poverty and unemployment. To tackle poverty, young adults believe in a more balanced distribution of wealth and that more effort should be allocated toward sharing resources between the rich and the poor. Young adults also believe that the government should invest in social security and job creation, that programs should be created to provide help and guidance to those affected by poverty and students should be educated about the social and economic effects of poverty in the classroom (see below chart). To tackle the unemployment rate, young adults believe that the government should modify public policy to encourage older workers to retire.

Findings from the survey also reveal that young Canadians who believe adults listen to their worries are more excited for the future believe they can make a difference in the world. These youth are inspired to help solve the problems facing the next generation.

International Youth Day was created by the United Nations to raise awareness of the issues that affect young people around the world. This year, be sure to let the youth in your life know that they are heard and that they can help make our tomorrow a better future for all of us.