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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Austria

Austria

1. Youth Policy Governance

1.4 Youth policy decision-making


Structure of Decision-making

Due to the federal structure of the Republic of Austria, the competencies are divided between the Federal Government (central organ) and the Federal States. The general clause in Article 15 of the Austrian Constitution (Bundes-Verfassungsgesetz) asignes all competencies which haven't been confered to the Federal Republic (in the comprehensive Articles 10 - 14b) to the Federal Provinces (fallback clause). The areas of state action with regard to legislation and the executive are clearly assigned to the federal government or the federal states.

The Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is in leading charge of  Austrian youth policy at the national level. However, in acknowledgement of the subject's cross-sectorial nature, all Ministries coin measures of youth policy and consider young people's position in all new legislative projects as part of the 'Youth Check'. To chaperone the development of the Austrian Youth Strategy, a working committee has been established in 2012. This working group ensures to imply the extracurricular youth work, their expertise and support. The Competence Centre Youth as a unit of the Federal Chancellery's Youth Department, is responsible for the long-term planning and overall coordination of the Austrian Youth Strategy.

Furthermore, the National Working Group on Youth Dialogue and Youth Participation brings together federal and provincial authorities and other youth policy actors to implement the youth dialogue and for the further development of youth participation. The working group is made up of the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery (Youth Competence Centre and Department for European and International Family and Youth Policy), the Federal Youth Council (Bundesjugendvertretung),the Federal Network Austrian Youth Information Centers (Bundesnetzwerk Österreichische Jugendinfos), the Federal Network of Open Youth Work (bundesweites Netzwerk Offene Jugendarbeit,), the Austrian European Youth Delegates, the Youth departments of the federal states (Landesjugendreferate), the National Correspondent to the European Knowledge Center for Youth Policy (EKCYP), and the Austrian National Agency Erasmus+ Youth in Action and European Solidarity Corps (OEAD), and the Office for Youth Work of the Autonomous Italian Province of Bolzano - South Tyrol.

The competencies asigned to the federal level, include the primary responsibility for youth policy, with particular emphasis on the upbringing of young people outside the school sector. The tasks  to be fulfilled in this area include:

  • Legislation and its implementation
  • Basic legislature in the youth welfare sector
  • Expert advice function for draft bills
  • UN Agreement on the Rights of the Child
  • International agendas including EU youth programme
  • The financial support of youth organisations, youth initiatives, associations and youth projects
  • Youth information
  • Initiation and promotion of youth research and
  • Initiating, promoting and dealing with priority themes such as violence against children, health promotion and preventive healthcare, new media, participation, sects, youth information, training youth leaders etc.

The nine Federal States hold the primary responsibility for youth promotion and youth work outside the school secto. The Provincial Youth Departments (Landesjugendreferate) located in the provincial governments have the task of implementing the youth policy measures of the province in youth work outside the school sector and coordinating cross-sectorial provincial youth policy. Their most important fields of activity are as follows:

  • Lobbying measures in the children’s and youth sectors
  • Promotion and support of children’s and youth institutions, particularly of 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
  • Public relations 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.
Youth representation and decision-making during the COVID-19 pandemic

Even in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, specific support for youth representation bodies and youth organizations is available. In order to encourage the participation of young people in decision making processes in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the Austrian Federal Youth Promotion Act provides the federal youth organizations with financial support, technical support and training to adapt activities. 

Moreover, the initiative 'Coronabusters' enables adolescents to be actively involved in the process of developing and contributing ideas to counteract the pandemic.

Apart from financial and technical support, an additional focus is placed on digitalization and youth participation through information and communication technologies and social media of public administration, as well as efforts to adapt and maintain regular youth participation mechanisms.  

Furthermore, programmes such as the EU Youth Dialogue and the so-called 'Reality Checks' regarding the Austrian Youth Strategy by young people enable young people to discuss and exchange views on global issues with national and international policymakers.

Main Themes

Youth policy has the task of shaping the life situation and life perspectives of young people and helping them to cope with the demands of the youth phase of life and the transition to adulthood. The objective of youth policy is to protect children and young people and to promote their development as independent personalities in order to lead independent and responsible lives and to use their productive and creative potentials for community and social engagement. Successful youth policy is understood to always have to take the needs and concerns of young people themselves into account - the aim is not a 'policy for' but a 'policy with' young people - and to take into account all policy areas rather than being concentrated in one department alone.

TheAustrian Youth Strategy (Österreichische Jugendstrategie) identified four topics of strategic importance for youth policy in Austria and defined them as fields of action, which indicate the direction in which the common effort shall lead. These are:

  •     Education and employment
  •     Participation and involvement
  •     Quality of life and togetherness
  •     Media and information

Furthermore, youth protection, children's rights and international cooperation are highlighted as part of the youth agenda by the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery.

Most efforts of Austrian youth policy are geared towards youth in general, therefore specific target groups are rarely individually adressed. Youth policy does however take into account the specific needs of disadvantaged youth as well as the need for inclusion.

The basis of effecitive youth policy

Previous national action plans have been screened in order to get an overview of youth relevant perspectives of these documents. Most youth relevant perspectives were found in the field of general and vocational education. Every educational institution is meant to be a major starting point for any measures to promote and support young people. The national action plan on a balanced diet, on health and well-being, targets young people as well.

Due to the high significance of youth participation within the establishment of a Youth Strategy, various options of youth engagement as well adolescence research are included. There is also a close discourse with the National Youth Council (Bundesjugendvertretung) and the Federal Networks for Open Youth Work and Youth Information.

Moreover, results from Austria will be included in theStructured Dialogue, foreseen in the EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027. The Structured Dialogue is a process designed to guarantee rightful inclusion of adolescents in decision-making aspects of youth politics.

A further instrument of the Youth Strategy is the Youth Screening initiative. It draws attention to the concerns of young people in all areas of politics and the bureaucracy. Within the different administrative departments, the 'Knowledge – Transparency – Latitude' process provides for stable structures. A summary of the KTL model is as follows:

  • Providing knowledge about the situation, needs and diversity of young people as well as about important youth policy stakeholders at the various levels.
  • Providing transparency about important youth policy measures, activities and services of the individual administrative departments as the necessary foundation for youth policy coordination efforts.
  • Engendering innovative and creative cooperation between elected officials, government agencies, young people and other stakeholders give everyone involved a new kind of latitude.

The Youth Competence Centre (Kompetenzzentrum Jugend) located within the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery supports administrative departments as they make use of this process.

Active cooperation with the provincial governments is a decisive factor in the success of the Youth Strategy (Österreichische Jugendstrategie) in a federally structured country like Austria. With the resolution of April 2013, ranking officials in the individual provincial governments initiated the Youth Offensive 2020. In the wording of the resolution, they declared that 'the goals of the Youth Strategy set forth by the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy are in their entirety [commensurate with] their own goals.' The Youth Offensive 2020 in the provincial governments stipulates that numerous structural elements of the Youth Strategy be incorporated in the work of the individual provinces.

The National Agency for Youth

Youth Competence Centre

The operating unit for the Youth Strategy is the Youth Competence Centre (Kompetenzzentrum Jugend) located within the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery. Established in May 2013, the centre coordinates key activities, offers knowledge and skills, and establishes contact with experts. The goal of the centre is to develop a stable network between a diverse group of youth policy stakeholders. However, the political responsibility for the implementation still lies with the province of the individual government departments and institutions.

Together with the National Youth Council(Bundesjugendvertretung) and the Federal Networks for Open Youth Workand Youth Information and in collaboration with the provincial youth departments (Landesjugendreferate), this competence centre acts as a National Agency for Youth.

Development Group

A development group was established to guide the Youth Strategy in its efforts to integrate the Youth Council and extracurricular youth work and maintain the expertise and support of these organisations.

The Youth Strategy development group meets monthly and is comprised of

The development group discusses policy focuses for the Youth Strategy and develops recommendations for relevant measures. Based on this core group and the impulses it creates, working groups and roundtables with additional stakeholders on specific topics are organised.

Policy Monitoring and Evaluation

The Austrian Institute of Economic Research (Österreichisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, WIFO) conducts a regular progress evaluation with regard to Austria's national Europe 2020 targets as well as the implementation of country-specific recommendations issued to Austria. The most recent evaluation report states that Austria is at a more favourable level than the EU average in all areas.

As of 1 January, 2013, a new impact assessment system (result-oriented impact assessment) was introduced in Austria as part of the 2013 Federal Budget Act. In nine areas of policy (so-called impact dimensions), the effects of draft legislation will have to be presented in a systematic and obligatory way for every draft law (e.g. the financial, overall economic, social and environmental policy effects, and also the effects on women and men, children, consumers and administrative costs). The impact dimension ‘social affairs’ is sub-divided into five core areas. One of these is intended to illustrate the effects of planned legislative measures on the group of persons at risk of poverty or exclusion as defined in the Europe 2020 Strategy.

In order to make it possible to implement this, a web-based social reform micro-simulation tool (SORESI) was developed which facilitates a quantitative estimation of the impact of specific planned legislative measures on the income situations of the Europe 2020 social target group.

Apart from the issues related to the Europe 2020 social target group, there is also the opportunity to simulate various measures in the field of cash benefits, social insurance and other contributions and income taxes, and to calculate their effects on the risk of poverty, the distribution of income, and their fiscal consequences. These services are free of charge after registration on the internet.

Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan

Reforms within the youth guarantee implementation plan with explicitly mentioned monitoring strategies:

  • Further development of the quality-focused subsidies and supporting instruments within the apprenticeship system (including different measures).
  • Increasing the number of skilled workers
  • Strategy on Early School Leaving and further decrease of the ESL rate
  • New upper secondary level in schools(Oberstufe NEU)
  • Further decrease of grade repetition
  • Educational statistics
  • Introduction of educational standards
  • Improvements in educational outcomes
  • Improvements in Career Counselling (IBOBB)
  • Improvements in transitional process between lower and upper secondary level education, between school and labour market
  • Youth Coaching (Jugendcoaching)

 

Youth related labour market policy objectives 2015:

  • Increase advertisement on the labour market
  • Acquisition of skilled positions (at least apprenticeship)
  • Keeping youth unemployment periods short (unemployment no longer than six months)
  • Get labour market distanced persons into jobs
  • Increase training effectiveness (proportion of job take-ups within three months after training)
  • Post-qualification job take-up in selected sectors: women and migrants in crafts and technology, intensive skilled worker training or intermediate-level secondary technical respectively vocational schools
 
Research

The Austrian Institute for Family Research (Österreichisches Institut für Familienforschung) Institute for Research on Qualifications and Training of the Austrian Economy (Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft, ibw), Austrian Institute for SME Research (KMU Forschung Austria) and the Institute for advanced studies (Institut für Höhere Studien, IHS), and other research institutions frequently conduct studies on behalf of public authorities. Within those studies, important stakeholders are interviewed. External evaluations are also carried out by these institutions.

Recent studies and study projects on employment and entrepreneurship: