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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Historical developments
  2. National definition or understanding of Youth Work


Historical developments

Youth organisations and youth representation

At the beginning of the 20th century, the first beginnings of associated youth work started. The associated youth works saw itself as a complement to the family and set itself the task of guaranteeing children and adolescents a fertile environment for growing up with values (religious, environmental, party political). Associations - such as the Catholic youth or the Boy Scouts - argue essentially with the unfavourable living conditions of the urban/proletarian youth, in which they see a threat to traditional values. These approaches to extracurricular youth work are organised in national and/or international networks and are essentially based on the free engagement of adults (bourgeois classes). 

The Austrian Federal Youth Ring (Österreichische Bundesjugendring, ÖBJR) was founded on 5 December 1953 by seven youth organisations (Catholic Youth, Catholic Young, Socialist Youth, Union Youth, Boy Scouts, Protestant Youth, Austrian Youth Movement) and is the predecessor organisation of the Austrian National Youth Council (Bundejugendvertretung, BJV). In addition to the opportunity for the youth to speak with one voice in order to have more weight over the government with regard to youth issues, the ban on many youth organisations during the Second World War was a decisive motivation for establishing an umbrella organisation for youth organisations. As with the Federal Youth Council, the goal of the National Youth Council was to represent the interests of children and young people and their organisations, as well as to develop common positions as a platform for young people from different ideological, religious and social convictions. After 47 years of advocacy, the Bundesjugendring passed its business and tasks to the National Youth Council in 2001 with the installation of the Federal Youth Representation Act, which by law has more say and a stronger involvement of youth organisations in politics. The agendas of the BJV are carried out by the Association of Austrian Child and Youth Representatives (ÖJV). The National Youth Council is a member of the European Youth Forum. The main focuses are: Education, Training, Employment, Social Security, Ecology, Participation, Political Education, Diversity, Anti-racism, Anti-Fascism, Gender Equality and Children and Youth Rights. According to the Federal Youth Representation Act, the decision-making body is a bureau which comprises the youth organisations of the parties represented in parliament, the two largest religious youth organisations and two other affiliated youth organisations as well as the national student representation, the Austrian Students Union (Österreichische Hochschüler_innenschaft, ÖH) and the Austrian Union Youth (Österreichische Gewerkschaftsjugend, ÖGJ). Since the law also stipulates that an association can lead the tasks of the Federal Youth Representation, the Association Austrian Child and Youth Representation (Österreichische Kinder- und Jugendvertretung, ÖJV) was founded, whose operative organ, the board, is democratically elected by the member organisations and not determined by law. The Executive Board consists of the four chairpersons (chair team) and a maximum of eight further members of the Executive Board, who are elected every two years and manage the current affairs of the National Youth Council. The gender balanced chair team represents the BJV externally.


Open youth work

In the 1960s, young people themselves become active and initiate alternative meeting places. In this time falls the establishment of the first open youth initiatives and open youth houses; the core theme for this is self-organization and turning away from the regulated, schooled and predominantly pedagogically oriented institutional youth work in schools and associations. Autonomy is a top priority and is the main driving force behind the emergence of open youth houses. According to their self-conception, the autonomous youth houses are constituted as a non-pedagogic space. Another indicator is that there were neither professional standards nor full-time staff in significant numbers. Most of the facilities were largely based on the voluntary work of adolescents and young adults, who often alternate roles and functions; high fluctuation of functionaries. Many youth initiatives, self-organised clubs and centres see themselves as an alternative to social currents and are characterised by a widespread rejection of the establishment and the bourgeois norms. In the following decades self-organisation is replaced or supplemented by pedagogically guided participation. Socio-cultural animation and experiential education are moving into the field of action. Initially less professionalized, professional open youth work slowly developed and was increasingly incorporated in the areas of social pedagogy and social work. Since then, open youth work has undergone gradual professionalization and continues to evolve.

The first youth streetwork project in Austria was developed and conducted in the late 1970ies and led to the installation of youth streetwork offers in the Austrian cities and also in rural areas. Since outreach work is mainly focussing on people in need or with problems the approach developed further and the form of Mobile Youth work emerged. Today Mobile Youth Work is defined as one major form of Open Youth Work besides location based / stationary Open Youth work.  Most youth centres or open youth work institutions were founded by associations and are today mainly funded by the municipalities and co-funded by the respective federal state. 

The low-threshold and voluntary access to open youth work offers favors the acquisition of educational content that is important for everyday action and social skills. Open youth work makes a significant contribution to social integration and participation for all young people, but especially those who are socio-economically disadvantaged. Open youth work also offers a broad range of professionally differentiated and tested offers as well as innovative concepts for the development of the municipalities regarding the needs of youth.

The Austrian Centre of Competence for Open Youth Work bOJA (bundesweites Netzwerk Offene Jugendarbeit) was founded in 2009 and builds on a long tradition of networking of youth workers. bOJA represents the field of action of open youth work in Austria and sees itself as a competence centre for open youth work, as a service and networking office, as a platform for knowledge and information exchange and as a specialist body for quality development in open youth work. bOJA works closely together with the umbrella organisations and nationwide networks of open youth work in the federal states, which are part of bOJA`s managing board, as well as with other relevant stakeholders in the field of youth work on all levels. On the European level bOJA is member of ECYC (European Confederation of Youth Clubs) and POYWE (Professional Open Youth Work in Europe).


Youth Information

In 1973, the first Vienna Youth Information Centre was opened by the Youth Welfare Office of the City of Vienna. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, there is a growing trend in Austria for information institutions to be increasingly transformed into "counselling and therapy facilities". This eventually led to a tendency that behaves acyclically to the rest of Europe:

While hundreds of information centres were opened in Western Europe between 1982 and 1987, the already existing centres were closed in Austria until the mid-1980s. In 1985, a mobile youth information was founded by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Family, Youth and Consumer Protection and the Youth Service Centre of the Province of Upper Austria was opened. In 1987, the information centre of "Youth in Vienna" (Jugend in Wien) was installed in the Vienna City Hall. Furthermore, a first meeting of the existing youth information centres in Austria (Graz, Kirchdorf, Linz, Salzburg, Vienna) took place this year. The 1990s in Austria are characterised by the development, exchange of experience and further development. At the end of this decade, almost all Austrian federal states have had a youth information service. Lower Austria followed in 2001. The nationwide networking led to several study trips to leading countries such as France and Italy as well as to the first joint projects such as publications and a unified telephone number. In 1993, the working group (ARGE) youth info leaders was founded. From then on, the ARGE meets twice a year to ensure exchange and networking between the youth information centres of the federal states. In 1999, the first editions of the Austria-wide information products "internships, work camps, au pairs abroad" and "holidays and part-time job search" were published as joint publications of the ARGE. In 2001, the first quality assurance conference of all Austrian Youth Information leaders took place and the first 1st course "Youth Information" was co-organized by the ARGE

Austrian Youth Information and the Ministry of Youth. At the beginning of 2004 the association “ Österreichische Jugendinfos” was founded. This was the predecessor organisation of the current National Network of Youth Information Centres in Austria.

National definition or understanding of Youth Work

Extracurricular child and youth work is a field of socialization and social action that involves extensive extracurricular activities, offers and spheres of work by, for and with children and young people based on voluntary participation. These are primarily pedagogically conceptualised and organised, public and not commercial. Related non-formal and informal learning processes are a central component. Out-of-school child and youth work provides learning, experience and experience spaces at local, regional, national, European and international level, connects young people and contributes to their personal development and social integration. Extracurricular child and youth work organisations, platforms and initiatives can act as a lobby for the interests of young people. The three main forms of extracurricular child and youth work in Austria are the associative child and youth work, open youth work as well as the youth information. Extracurricular youth work includes all qualified and planned recreational and social education programs and activities aimed at promoting and strengthening young people. The requirements are that the offers comply with the principles of voluntariness, openness, living environment orientation, participation and equal rights as well as being set without commercial interests.