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The Austrian Youth Strategy(Österreichische Jugendstrategie) is an ongoing process to strengthen and develop youth policy. The aim is to bundle measures for young people, to systematize them and to optimize their effectiveness. The youth strategy should also identify new fields of action and cooperation, identify further need for action and underpin this with concrete measures. Four major fields of action serve as the framework. An essential feature of the Austrian Youth Strategy is the active involvement of young people and professionals at all levels. Through a permanent screening and the proximity to the target group - thus in constant exchange with youth representatives and young people - the youth strategy can respond to changing challenges and act in a trend-setting manner.
As of 2020, the Strategy defines 4 fields of action, namely education and training, employment and entrepreneurship, life quality and social cooperation, and media and information. Corresponding to each of these fields of action, Youth Objectives (Österreichische Jugendziele) have been established. Based on the EU-Youth Strategy 2019-2027, these objectives have been linked to the European Youth Goals with the aim of contributing to their implementation.
On a national level, 'Reality Checks' serve to ensure youth participation in the development of objectives and measures relevant to the Austrian Youth Strategy.
Continuous development of the youth strategy
As an ongoing process, the Austrian Youth Strategy is subjected to continuous development. In order to strengthen the establishment of youth policy across sectors and to better take into account the realities of life of young people, the Austrian Youth Strategy will be expanded in terms of content during this legislative period. The youth strategy was anchored in the government program 2017-2022 (Regierungsprogramm 2017-2022, Page 103). 'Ongoing development of the Austrian Youth Strategy and the expansion of the Competence Center Youth, in order to coordinate interministerial measures in the field of youth and to support them in terms of content and methodology.' Based on the fields of action of the youth strategy, Austrian youth goals were developed from 2019 onwards and measures are geared to these goals or newly developed. By resolution of the Federal Government of September 2020, the Austrian Youth Goals (Österreichische Jugendziele) were adopted by all Federal Ministries. Each youth goal is assigned to a field of action of the Austrian Youth Strategy. In 'Reality Checks', these youth goals were reflected with young people and considered whether the youth goal contributes to the implementation of a European Youth Goal.
The four fields of action
- Employment and Learning
- Participation and Initiative
- Quality of Life and a Spirit of Cooperation
- Media and Information
The Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt – Sektion Familie und Jugend) considers itself to be the impetus behind this initiative. The implementation of these measures is the task and responsibility of those involved in shaping social policy and it must be supported by a broad youth policy consensus and a cross-sectorial approach.
At the same time, the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is aware of numerous existing measures – in the area of employment, among others. The Austrian Youth Strategy should, therefore, offer an additional impetus to shift the focus more strongly toward the perspectives of young people or to incorporate still inactive yet relevant stakeholders.
Employment and Learning
Education secures young people's futures and the widespread prosperity in Austrian society is largely predicated on the skills and qualifications of Austrian workers. Austrian youth policy is therefore geared towards helping young people develop their talents as best they can. High-level qualifications make it possible for young people to meet current and future challenges in the working world and to take advantage of the opportunities presented to them in the best way possible.
The labour market situation for young people in Austria is very favourable in an European comparison. Demographic trends lead to lower numbers of entrants into the vocational education system and therefore also to decreasing numbers of diploma holders. For this reason, the number of people in the employment system is also continually on the decline. Qualified young people are therefore extremely valuable to the labour market. It is in this context, the Youth Strategy evaluates the employment perspectives and the actual employment situations of young people in Austria, with the goal of full employment among 15 to 24 year olds. The focus of the recommendations lies on improving vocational and practically oriented learning. This means more opportunities for young people and ensures that Austria will have the qualified workers it needs to face the future.
While all Federal Ministries are collectively working on further developing the Austrian Youth Strategy, the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs (Bundeministerium für Digitalisierung und Wirtschaftsstandort) has a notable influence on the section Employment and Learning.
Corresponding National Youth Goals:
- Every young person in Austria without an educational qualification above compulsory schooling level can complete further education and training irrespective of their place of residence and thus get off to a good start in working life. (Federal Ministry of Labour and Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection)
- Pupils leaving the education system have at least central basic competences due to compulsory education. (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research)
- Support young people in their career choice and vocational training in a competence-oriented manner. (Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs)
- Support young people in building knowledge and competences in the field of international business and ensure access to information in this field. (Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs)
- To teach young people to think and act economically and to support them in implementing their ideas. (Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs)
- The BMEIA engages in dialogue with young people on foreign policy and international relations and supports them in developing their interests, talents and qualifications in the international context of a global world. (Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs)
- Supporting young people in acquiring financial literacy, which is an essential factor for success in employment and economic self-determination. (Federal Ministry of Finance)
- Making the apprenticeship system of the Federal Ministry of Defence more attractive, especially for young women in technical professions. (Federal Ministry of Defence)
- We meet future societal challenges with the help of agricultural and environmental education. (Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology)
- We provide information on perspectives and career opportunities in the Federal Civil Service. (Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport)
- Increasing young people's interest in scientific, technical and transport-related topics and strengthening their chances in these occupational fields. (Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology)
Participation and Initiative
It shall pay to take the initiative. A thriving democracy needs ambitious people who want to take the initiative and participate and the conditions that support this initiative. This is especially the case for young people. They should be able to speak out, offer suggestions and participate in decisions that affect their lives.
With its voting age set at 16 years, Austria is a pioneer in Europe with regard to participatory democracy among young people. Studies have shown that early inclusion in institutionalised participation systems such as elections generally results in a stronger desire to participate in political decision-making processes.
Besides elections, there are numerous forms of participation in Austria, of which only a portion are actually used by young people. It must therefore be clarified whether existing forms of participation truly meet the needs of today’s youth and how barriers to participation can be lowered, especially for groups from disadvantaged backgrounds. The potential for youth to take the initiative is great: In Austria there is a long and – compared to other European countries – pronounced tradition of volunteering. One-third of young people in Austria participate in some form of voluntary work, an above average number. The recognition of skills acquired from volunteering by the formal education system or by employers is still in its infancy.
In this field of action, the established Youth Objectives are specifically influenced by theFederal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Forschung) as well as the Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport(Bundesministerium für Kunst, Kultur, öffentlicher Dienst und Sport).
Corresponding National Youth Goals:
- Facilitate access to youth-relevant support measures (Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport).
- Expanding the participation of young workers in co-determination in the workplace. (Federal Ministry of Labour)
- Contributing to the political engagement of youth and young adults through civic education and education for sustainable development in the classroom. (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research)
- Children, youths and young adults are empowered through participation in science and research (Citizen Science) and they actively participate in science and research. (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research)
- We use the commitment and energy of young people to achieve our climate and energy goals together. (Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology)
- In order for young people to recognise and use voluntary work as a component of their qualification, the job exchange of the Republic of Austria takes this qualification into account when applying for apprenticeships. (Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport)
- Young people have the opportunity to actively participate in the design of sports policy measures in the form of a dialogue process. (Federal Ministry of Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport)
Quality of Life and a Spirit of Cooperation
'Let’s work together on the future' is the motto of this field of action. Changes in many different areas of life require active planning. Young people must be adequately supported and challenged so that they are ready to assume responsibility for their futures. Austrian youth policy therefore provides young people with the tools they need to live independent and self-reliant lives without being overly intrusive.
The goals encompass the creation and maintenance of public spaces for adolescents, the facilitation of young people’s integration and the encouragement of development of qualifications regardless of an individual’s migration or non-migration background; however, with a focus on young women.
Being satisfied with their lives is an important concern for young people. The yearly international UNICEF overview of child well-being in industrialised countries shows that the life satisfaction of young people in Austria is comparatively improvable. A league table of countries in the study shows Austria in 16th place out of 38 countries with regard to how Austrian girls and boys rate their satisfaction with their own lives. At 15 years of age, 77% of young people in Austria show high life satisfaction. (UNICEF 2020).
Youth policy requires a comprehensive evaluation of the objective situation AND the subjective appraisal of young people. This helps clarify which areas require the most immediate attention so that young people can successfully navigate the passage to adult life with the necessary optimism.
Corresponding National Youth Goals:
- Maintaining and creating space for young people in public life. (Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery)
- Young people with or without a migration background are supported in their successful integration and their potential in society is promoted. Particular attention is paid to empowering young women. (Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery)
- Increasing psychosocial health by promoting young people's health and life skills. (Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection)
- Promoting social-emotional competences and making school a safe place to learn supports the psychosocial health of young people. (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research)
- Parts of the law of parent and child will be reformed to ensure that child maintenance, custody and contact rights are in line with the times. (Federal Ministry of Justice, Bundesministerium für Justiz)
Media and Information
Young people shall be enabled to seize the modern opportunities safely and competently. It is particularly important for youth policy to actively see the digitization of our information society as an opportunity. In many ways, young people are at the forefront of digitization and the acquisition of new technologies and media, such as streaming or social media applications. For this very reason and because of their life phase, young people are also exposed to special risks. With this new field of action, the Austrian Youth Strategy pays special attention to all those measures aimed at strengthening the media literacy of adolescents, families, youth workers and other educational practitioners. This also includes the positioning of youth policy in the information society and the strengthening of information literacy as well as the provision of youth-oriented and youth-relevant information.
On the part of the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery, the measures focus on mediating media literacy. The aim of the Media-Youth-Info Centre (MJI) is to develop new media education workshops and seminars for young people, parents and educational professionals. These are then offered in part at the location of the MJI in Vienna, but also and above all in the federal states through and with external organizations. In addition, the MJI works with other institutions and professionals to produce brochures and publications on media literacy.
The Youth Objectives that have been formulated so far place a focus on media literacy, the risks of the internet and safe navigation in a digital environment. Moreover, these goals aim to strengthen adolescents’ digital competences and qualifications to encourage participation in societal discourse.
Corresponding National Youth Goals:
- Participatory and target group-oriented processing and dissemination of information. (Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery)
- Develop media and information literacy among young people in order to strengthen participation in social dialogue. (Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery)
- Enhance young people's digital competences and qualifications in the classroom and strengthen their media literacy so that young people leave the education system with those competences that enable them to use technology. (Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research)
- To provide young people with the knowledge and skills that will enable them to move consciously and safely in the digital environment. (Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs )
- The Internet and its dangers - supporting young people in the responsible use of digital media. (Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs)
As Austria is a Federal State, the responsibilities are shared between the Federal Government and the federal provinces. This also applies to the most 'traditional' area of youth policy: extracurricular youth work.
Implementation at the Federal level
In order to implement youth policy in an interdepartmental and interdisciplinary way, all Ministries have their own youth policy campaigns and initiatives. This cross-sectorial approach is showcased in the Youth Strategy, where every Ministry was asked to take the lead responsibility on at least one Youth Goal.
Acting specifically for youth policy is the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery. Essentially, its tasks are to coordinate, to guide and, in the field of extra-curricular activities, to provide stimulus. Its other major focus is European and international youth policy. On the national level, the Federal Chancellery acts as a coordinator, under the supervision of various working committees, which consist of representatives from all Ministries and the provinces, social partners, including the statutory body Bundesjugendvertretung (National Youth Council), experts and NGOs. Its tasks are to observe the implementation of all measures relating to the fulfilment of the Youth Pact, to coordinate the various initiatives in their relation to each other and to propose and strengthen sustainable youth policy measures. (Inter-Ministerial Working Group, 'European Youth Pact').
The competencies of the provinces in the field of youth policy
In the Federal Provinces, the Provincial Youth Departments (Landesjugendreferate) dertermine and implement youth policies and thus participate in the implementation of the Youth Strategy.
Youth promotion and youth work outside the school sector is primarily the responsibility of the provinces. The Provincial Youth Departments located in the provincial governments have the task of implementing the youth policy measures of the province in youth work outside the school sector. Their most important fields of activity are as follows:
- Lobbying measures in the children’s and youth sectors and public relations
- Promotion and support of children’s and youth institutions, particularly open youth work. Youth centres, mobile youth work and youth information bodies of the provinces as well as initiatives at regional and municipal levels belong to the latter category.
- Services for children and young people as well as for work with children and youth work etc.
- The training and further training of staff involved in youth work
- Youth welfare: the tasks of youth welfare include all measures involving maternity-, infant- and youth welfare, which serve the well-being of the child with the aim of strengthening the ability of families to bring up their children
- Youth protection: Risk situations included in youth protection legislature are, for instance: staying in public places, spending the night in hostels or at campsites, attending public theatre or film performances, visiting public houses, consuming alcohol and nicotine, hitch-hiking etc.
Revisions are made continuously and at least once every legislative period. In 2018 the major objectives have been renamed to fields of action and have been supplemented with the field Media and Information. Based on the fields of action of the youth strategy, Austrian youth goals will be developed from 2019 onwards and measures will be geared to these goals or newly developed.
Previous Development of the Youth strategy
In 2012 a development group was established, that collected the first portfolio of goals and measures on basis of the 8 fields of the youth strategy. Based on this, the first publication on the Youth Strategy was presented. First steps were prioritised and with 'youth strategy on tour' young people were directly involved in the development of the first youth strategy.
In the beginning of 2013, a conference took place and the second publication on the Youth Strategy including goals, achievements and plans was presented. 8 core areas were appointed within this publication: youth participation, youth screening, non-formal and informal education, youth check, media competence, youth research. In May 2013, the Competence Centre Youth has been installed to further strengthen the organisation of youth work. A second youth strategy on tour was realised and later that year an updated strategy paper was published, that included strategic objectives until 2020.
This strategy has become the Austrian Youth Strategy(Österreichische Jugendstrategie) in 2019. With 2020, the Austrian Federal Government has decided to continue the Youth Strategy. Building on the fields of action of the Youth Strategy, youth goals were developed to which measures are now being aligned or newly developed.