1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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Political Commitment to Evidence-Based Youth Policy
In Austria, evidence-based policy-making is considered essential for youth policy, although there is no clear definition of the term. This approach requires that policy decisions are based on a solid understanding of young persons’ needs, challenges and aspirations, as well as on the best available scientific evidence and data.
Youth research is recognised as a crucial element of evidence-based youth policy. The Austrian Federal Government continuously supports research projects on youth policy and youth work in order to understand the challenges facing young people in Austria and to support evidence-based policy-making. Herein, youth research operates in interdisciplinary research fields, as youth policy is present in different aspects of all policy areas.
The Austrian Youth Report (Jugendbericht), submitted by the Federal Ministry responsible for youth agendas once per legislative period, is a crucial instrument for fact-based youth policy in Austria. The report provides a comprehensive overview of young people’s situation and needs in Austria, using data resources and stakeholder input. The report’s analysis is used to inform policy discussions and decisions in the youth policy field, evaluate the effectiveness of youth-related measures and programs, and ensure that youth policies and programs in Austria are evidence-based, effective, and responsive to the needs of young people.
Furthermore, the Austrian Youth Strategy has established various coordination structures and research activities in order to support evidence-based policymaking. For example, the Youth Competence Centre at the Federal Chancellery is responsible for monitoring the implementation of Austria's youth objectives and related measures in all federal ministries. The Youth Screening Initiative provides stable structures in all ministries through the 'Knowledge-Transparency-Latitude Process' (Wissen- Transparenz-Gestaltungsspielraum), ensures knowledge about the situation, needs and diversity of young people and creates transparency about youth policy measures. Furthermore, the Austrian Youth Dialogue (Jugenddialog Österreich) involves young people in political discussions and decision-making processes related to youth policy. Coordinated by the National Working Group on Youth Dialogue and Participation (NAG), the process of the Austrian Youth Dialogue is based on data and analyses of the situation and needs of young people in Austria. In this way, the Youth Strategy follows a fact-based approach to youth policy making.
Cooperation between policy-making and research
Youth research is crucial for informing policy-making processes in Austria, and high standards of reliability must be met for research results to provide effective policy advice and inform prevention efforts. While quantitative research such as surveys and panorama studies are common in youth research, they are often complemented by qualitative methods such as individual or group interviews (focus groups) to gain a deeper understanding of youth issues. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, youth research not only combines different methods but also focuses on different research fields such as education, youth work, social services, labour market, transitions, health and well-being or justice. In this way, it pursues its main objective of providing up-to-date analysis of the reality of young people and contributing to the development of comprehensive and inclusive youth policies that can respond to the demands of a rapidly changing world (Gniewosz 2022; Hoffmann 2022).
Austria has a long tradition of promoting cooperation between policy and research in order to support evidence-based and up-to-date policies that effectively address the needs and concerns of young people. The Austrian Youth Strategy is an important mechanism for cooperation between youth policy and research. It is coordinated by the Competence Centre for Youth in the Federal Chancellery, which provides facts and research on the topic of youth. As a cross-sectoral agenda, various ministries also support specific research projects on youth issues relevant to their area of competence. The member of the government responsible for youth affairs is obliged to present a youth report (Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Östereich) in each legislative period, based on current facts and figures on youth in Austria. This report also serves to inform youth policymaking. Overall, there are several ways in which policy and research on youth in Austria work together:
- The Austrian government provides funding to research institutions, universitites and individual researchers to carry out studies on youth-related issues. This funding supports evidence-based policy-making and ensures that policies are informed by the latest research. Often individual ministries, such as the Federal Chancellery, or the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research fund and support youth-related research projects.In addition, provincial governments also fund and support youth-related research projects.
- The Austrian government establishes advisory committees and expert groups composed of representatives from academia, civil society organisations and government agencies. These groups provide evidence-based recommendations to policy-makers on a variety of issues, including youth policy.
- The federal government, universities and research institutions work closely together to support policy-making and research cooperation. There are several research institutions in Austria that focus on youth-related issues, such as the Austrian Institute for Family Research (Österreichisches Institut für Familienforschung), which publishes an annual youth report (Fokus Jugend 2023), the Institute for Youth Culture Research (Institut für Jugendkulturforschung) and the Centre for Social Innovation (Zentrum für soziale Innovation). These institutions conduct research on a wide range of topics, including education, employment, health and social inclusion, and provide valuable insights for policy makers.
- Conferences and seminars throughout Austria bring together researchers and policy-makers to exchange ideas and discuss policy issues. These events provide an opportunity for policy-makers to learn about the latest research findings and for researchers to gain a better understanding of policy priorities. For example, the Austrian Youth Research Conference (Österreichische Jugendforschungstagung), organised by the Institute of Education of the University of Innsbruck together with the Austrian Youth Research Network, will take place again in June 2023 after being postponed due to the pandemic. The aim of the conference is to facilitate a dialogue between research, youth, practice, and youth policy and to develop common perspectives for youth research, including contributions from young people themselves.
- The Austrian National Youth Councilis the umbrella organisation representing the interests of young people in Austria. It works closely with government bodies and other stakeholders, including those working in youth research, to ensure that the needs and perspectives of young people are taken into account in policy-making.
- The Austrian Youth Research Network (Netzwerk Jugendforschung.at) is an open community for actors in youth research, practice, politics and administration. It aims to promote interdisciplinary research on all aspects of young people and youth as a generation or social group, including youth transitions and youth welfare and youth work. The network aims to strengthen youth research in Austria, to promote dialogue between researchers, practitioners, policy makers and young people, to develop a coherent database, to promote scientific communication and to network with other youth research initiatives in Austria, Europe and beyond. The network provides a knowledge platform for youth research through an online database of publications, organisations, institutions and experts in the youth field (Wissensplattform Jugendforschung). A regular information service informs network members about current publications, projects, activities and events related to youth research.
National Statistics and available data sources
Statistical data on youth in Austria is gathered through various methods, including surveys, censuses, administrative records, and research studies conducted by Statistics Austria, public authorities (e.g. the Public Employment Service and the Chamber of Commerce), and research institutions. These entities employ statistical techniques to analyze the data and gain valuable insights into youth trends and characteristics. The findings are then disseminated through official statistical publications, available in both print and electronic formats. Online databases and portals provide interactive tools for customized reports. Through these platforms, policy makers and stakeholders can access relevant statistics and evidence to support fact-based decision making. Moreover, collaboration and partnership between government administrations and statistical offices allow direct access to specific datasets and customized analyses. Reports and presentations summarising key findings are regularly shared through conferences and workshops to raise awareness of youth-related issues. Because youth policy is a federal and state matter, provincial governments also support and collect data on young people.
In the following, a list of the most important national statistical data on youth-related topics in Austria is presented:
- As the central statistical authority, Statistics Austria reliably collects and expertly analyses political, social and economic information in Austria. In this way, it provides both politicians and the public with important statistics, including those relevant to youth policy. Through cooperation with federal ministries, specific surveys, questionnaires and data collection methods can be designed with regard to relevant youth issues. This collaborative research helps to monitor trends, evaluate results and make evidence-based decisions on policy adjustments or improvements.
- The Austrian Institute for Family Research – AIF (Österreichisches Institut für Familienforschung – ÖIF) is an interdisciplinary scientific department of the University of Vienna that regularly conducts application-oriented research on the structure and dynamics of youth, generations, families, gender and partnerships. With its publication 'Focus on Youth - An Overview in Figures' (Fokus Jugend – Ein Überblick in Zahlen), commissioned by the Federal Chancellery's Department for Family and Youth, it contributes annually to updated statistics on youth data in Austria (Jugendspezifische Daten). Using both quantitative and qualitative methods, the Institute draws on a range of disciplines, including psychology, sociology, demography, history, economics, statistics and social pedagogy. In order to produce socially and politically relevant findings, the Institute thoroughly studies and evaluates relevant issues, develops models, makes reliable projections and collaborates with other research institutions. By cooperating with public and governmental authorities, it provides reliable facts about young people and families that are used in policy-making in the youth field. Data information is disseminated through publications, a website (in German), newsletters, workshops and partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organisations involved in family policy.
- Traditional survey research methods often struggle to keep pace with the rapid technological, social, and cultural changes happening today. To effectively analyse and understand emerging trends and innovations in real time, additional methodological approaches are required. These include beside qualitative questioning young innovator groups, continuous monitoring of topic trends using systematic scientific methods. The Institute for Youth Culture Research addresses this need through its Youth Trend Monitor Tracts (Jugendtrendbeobachtung). This approach combines both qualitative questioning and systematic trend monitoring to provide valuable and practical insights for institutions and providers who need to respond swiftly to new developments in the youth sector. By utilizing these methods, the Institute aims to capture the dynamic nature of youth culture and ensure the findings are relevant and useful for decision-makers.
- The Institute for Youth Culture Research has been conducting practical and relevant research on youth since 2001. In addition, it has established a generationlab (in German) since 2016, which offers contract research, expert opinions and consulting services on generational topics for federal and state authorities. By combining interpretative and statistical methods, the institute ensures high-quality results of applied research.
- On the basis of a resolution passed by the Austrian Parliament on 28 September 1988, the government body responsible for youth affairs is required to present an 'up-to-date report on the situation of young people in Austria' (Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Östereich) within each legislative period. The most recent '7th Report on the Situation of Young People in Austria' provides comprehensive insights into various aspects of youth. In order to clearly present all the data collected, the report is divided into three sections. Section A presents statistical data on young people in Austria, mainly based on the European Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (Teil A: Wissen um junge Menschen in Österreich). Section B focuses on the 'Better-Life-Index of Youth', which aims to assess and improve the quality of life of young people (Teil B: Better-Life Index Jugend). Section C deals with the Austrian Youth Strategy, highlighting the provisions of the federal ministries, the Austrian National Youth Council and the Federal Youth Employment Network that support the objectives of the Youth Strategy (Teil C: Österreichische Jugendstrategie). Previous youth reports (2011; 2007; 1999; 1993; 1987) have covered topics such as gender mainstreaming, youth work, leisure situations and participation opportunities. Each report provides a comprehensive perspective on the circumstances and challenges faced by young people in Austrian society, combining scientific expertise, analysis of living conditions and policy recommendations. In this way, the reports serve as essential resources for policy-makers and practitioners, informing responsible youth policies and providing insights into the needs and perspectives of young Austrians.
Budgetary Allocations supporting research in the youth field
In Austria, there is no specific federal budget explicitly designated for youth research. However, different ministries and departments distribute budgets for youth research according to their respective areas of responsibility, as outlined in the Federal Ministries Act 1986 (Bundesministeriengesetz 1986). For instance, the Federal Chancellery, which is responsible for youth affairs, provides financial support for research projects related to youth policy, youth work, and youth development. This funding also covers participation in international networks such as the European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy. The results of these networks are incorporated into the Austrian Youth Strategy and the implementation of the structured dialogue in Austria. Moreover, the Federal Chancellery allocates a budget to produce a report on the situation of young people in Austria once every legislative period (Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Österreich), which provides valuable data and information on the state of young people in the country, contributing to evidence-based decision-making.
Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Education, Science, and Research, may also offer funding for youth-related research projects, particularly focusing on the education and learning of young people. These funding initiatives help advance knowledge and understanding in areas such as educational practices, learning outcomes, and the specific educational needs of young individuals.