Youth Perceptions of Corruption: Help Overcome the Data Deficit!


A sign in Zimbabwe indicating that all may not consider illegal pirating as corrupt.

By: Brooks Marmon, Accountability Architect

In many countries across the world, demographics are dominated by an ever rising youth population. In Nepal, for example, roughly 50% of the population is under the age of 24. In Liberia, where the Lab also works, the same percentage is under 15 years old. Governments and researchers have long been concerned by the political and security implications of this ‘youth bulge’. Yet there is little hard data on youth perceptions of the ills in society- like corruption- that might lead to disengagement or violence among this demographic. An important ongoing survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) seeks to fill this gap by assessing corruption perceptions among millennials around the world. 

There are existing surveys that seek to gather information about corruption in developing countries, of course, like Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index. There are also a handful of country and region specific surveys that measure youth perceptions of corruption, such as this one in South Africa and a TI survey that expands to Africa at-large. However, systematic and organized data on youth perceptions of corruption globally is sparse.

This is a critical gap because youth in developing countries are particularly impacted by corruption. Millennials are by definition at critical stages in their personal and professional lives, unlike the older generation who are more established and may enjoy greater job security or family stability. It is important that the impressions and consequences of corruption in a youth specific context be explored as a key step in understanding the extent to which social and economic rights of millennials may be thwarted.

The Lab’s activities target young people precisely because we believe that they have highly creative ideas for fighting corruption and building accountability. Our teams run film schools that target youth for example– providing them with a technical skill and an outlet to make their voices heard. While the governments of many countries in the developing world consist of leaders in their 70s and 80s, young people are leading the way in innovative tools for governance.

The Lab was recently in Zimbabwe (home to the oldest serving head of state in the world) and met several of the Mandela Washington Fellows of the Young African Leaders Initiative. These youth are maximizing their creative talents to push for change and hold leaders accountable. From online tools to report instances of bribery to visions of a digital constitutional storytelling platform, the Fellows are leading the way in demanding a more just and fair society. It is critical that power-holders move beyond merely offering lip service to the importance of youth and begin to implement measures which meaningfully engage a generation noted for its technological sophistication, entrepreneurial skills, and drive to reverse critical problems like income inequality and climate change.

An effort to gather more data from millennials around how they perceive corruption in relation to these issues is essential. We encourage young people around the world to take a few minutes and complete the WEF/UNODC survey (in English, Spanish, Chinese or Arabic) here.

About Accountability Lab

Making power-holders accountable in the developing world

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