1.3 National youth strategy
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The Austrian Youth Strategy (Österreichische Jugendstrategie) is an ongoing process that aims to strengthen and develop youth policy across Austria. It is anchored in the government program 2020-2024 (Regierungsprogramm 2020-2024, page 196) and is based on four major 'Fields of Action' (Handlungsfelder). These fields of action provide a framework for bundling and systematizing measures for young people and optimizing their effectiveness (see Scope and contents).
In this context, Austrian Youth Goals (Österreichische Jugendziele) have been developed for each field of action, and they are regularly evaluated and reflected upon with young people in ‘Reality Checks’. This active youth participation (one of the 4 fields of action) allows for the evaluation of goals and measures in relation to the lifeworlds and concerns of young people, and contributes to including their needs and perspectives in the elaboration of youth goals and measures. The Austrian Youth Goals have been linked to the individual European Youth Goals of the EU-Youth Strategy 2019-2027, with the aim of contributing to their implementation.
The strategy, which is cross-sectoral and involves all federal ministries, allows for constant screening and proximity to the target group. This enables the strategy to respond to changing challenges and act in a trend-setting manner, with all federal ministries contributing to the implementation process by developing measures for the existing or new youth goals.
As Austria recognizes the importance of investing in its youth, the Austrian Youth Strategy was launched as an ongoing initiative aimed at enhancing and improving youth policy in the country. The strategy focuses primarily on young people between the ages of 14-24 and those under 30, and is structured around four key areas of action: learning and employment, participation and initiative, quality of life and cooperative spirit, and media and information. To achieve its goals, each field of action has several Austrian youth objectives (Jugendziele) that have been designed to set policy direction and improve outcomes for young people across the country.
The Department for Family and Youth at the Federal Chancellery sees itself as the driving force behind this initiative. The responsibility for implementing these measures lies with those involved in shaping social policy and requires a broad youth policy consensus and a cross-sectoral approach. In the following, scope and contents of the fields of action are presented:
Learning and Employment (Bildung und Beschäftigung)
In the field of ‘Learning and Employment’, the strategy aims to secure young people’s future by providing them with high-level qualifications that will enable them to meet current and future challenges in the working world. The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection is responsible for supporting young people who have not completed education above compulsory schooling level with further vocational education and training to enable to have a good start in working life. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Economy is responsible for teaching young people to think and act economically and supporting them in implementing their ideas. The Federal Ministry of Finance is responsible for providing young people with the acquisition of financial literacy, which is a key factor in career success and economic self-determination.
Participation and Initiative (Beteiligung und Engagement)
The Austrian Youth Strategy focuses on promoting engaged young people who want to participate and have a say in the field of ‘Participation and Initiative’. The strategy sets the voting age at 16 since 2007, making Austria a pioneer in Europe in terms of participatory democracy among young people. The strategy aims to promote a long tradition of voluntary engagement among young people to further involve them in social participation. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research is responsible for promoting participation in science and research to encourage young people to actively participate in the respective fields. The strategy aims to design framework conditions and structures that support and strengthen young people to actively deal with crises and to experience themselves as self-effective and capable of taking action (interdepartmental).
Quality of Life and Spirit of Cooperation (Lebensqualität und Miteinander)
The Austrian Youth Strategy in the field of ‘Quality of life and Spirit of cooperation’ aims to provide young people with independence and self-reliance tools and to promote active, sustainable, and safe mobility. The Department for Family and Youth at the Federal Chancellery maintains and creates space for young people in public life and supports their integration and empowerment, especially young women. The Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care, and Consumer Protection promotes psychosocial health by enhancing young people's health and life skills. The Federal Ministry of Education, Science, and Research promotes social-emotional competences and a safe learning environment in schools. The Federal Ministry of Justice reforms the law of parent and child to keep up with current times.
Media and Information (Medien und Information)
Within the area of ‘Media and Information’, the strategy aims to strengthen the media literacy of young people and improve their participation in social dialogue. The Department for Family and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is promoting youth media literacy through the Media-Youth-Info Centre (MJI). The MJI is developing new media education workshops and seminars for young people, parents, and educational professionals, and working with external organizations to offer them throughout the federal states. The MJI is also collaborating with other institutions to produce brochures and publications on media literacy, foremost with Saferinternet.at (in German). The strategy aims to educate young people on safe and conscious use of digital technologies and to promote media and information literacy.
The Federal Chancellery is the driving force behind the Austrian Youth Strategy, but the implementation of the youth goals is the responsibility of the political decision-makers (see Scope and contents). As a cross-cutting issue, it thus concerns all ministries and falls under the responsibility of the federal government as well as Austria's provinces.
The Competence Centre for Youth (Komptenzzentrum Jugend), located within the Department for Family and Youth in the Federal Chancellery, is responsible for planning and coordinating the implementation of the Austrian Youth Strategy. It oversees youth goals in federal ministries, leads the Youth Strategy Coordination Round and Development Group, and supports research on youth in Austria. Additionally, it facilitates participatory processes, provides reports and collaborates with all relelvant stakeholders. At the naional level, the Federal Chancellery therefore acts as the overall coordinator with working committees composed of representatives of ministries, provinces, social partners, experts, NGOs and the National Youth Council.
To support the Youth Competence Centre, the Youth Strategy Development Group (Entwicklungsgruppe Jugendstrategie) provides participatory assistance in the implementation of the strategy. The group meets regularly to provide input and guidance, ensuring that the perspectives and realtities of young people are reflected in the strategy. It brings together diverse expertise from stakeholders such as the Federal Youth Council (Bundes Jugend Vertretung), the Austrian Youth Information Network (Bundesnetzwerk Österreichischer Jugendinfos), the National Network for Open Youth Work (Bundesweites Netzwerk Offene Jugendarbeit), the National Agency for Erasmus+ (OeAD Erasmus+), the National Correspondent for the European Youth Research Network, and representatives of the Department for Youth Policy at the Federal Chancellery.
The Provincial Youth Departments (Landesjugendreferate), which are located within provincial governments, are tasked with implementing youth policy measures in youth work outside the school sector. These measures include lobbying, promoting and supporting children's and youth institutions, as well as providing services for youth welfare and protection.
The Austrian Youth Strategy is revised on an ongoing basis, wtih major revisions taking place at least once per legislative period.
Currently, the Austrian Youth Strategy is being updated in line with the government programme 2020-2024. It thus will incorporate the European Youth Goals and the 28 Austrian Youth Goals with corresponding measures. Furthermore, the government intends to develop further Youth Goals and create coordination structures to ensure transparency and effective implementation. The first progress report (Fortschrittsbericht 2021), in accordance with the Council of Ministers decision of 30 September 2020, focuses on initial measures, coordination and the implementation of 'Reality Checks'.
In 2018, the strategy was renamed and expanded to include the field of Media and Information. From 2019 onwards, Austrian Youth Goals have been developed based on the four fields of action of the strategy, and measures have been geared towards achieving these goals or newly developed ones.
Initially, the strategy was developed in 2012 by a development group that put together the first portfolio of goals and actions based on the eight areas of the strategy. Subsequently, two publications were published in 2012 and 2013 outlining the objectives, achievements and plans of the strategy. In 2013, the Youth Competence Centre was established to strengthen the organisation of youth work. The strategy was updated in 2013 and published in the form of a strategy paper, which contained strategic goals until 2020. In 2019, the strategy became known as the Austrian Youth Strategy and the government continued with the development of youth goals based on the four fields of action.