1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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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 plays an important role in evidence-based youth policy, with the government supporting research projects on youth policy and youth work. In doing so, youth research operates in interdisciplinary research fields, as youth policy is present in various aspects of all policy areas.
The Austrian Youth Report (Jugendbericht) is an important tool for evidence-based youth policy, providing a comprehensive overview of the situation and needs of young people in the country. It uses data resources and stakeholder input to inform policy discussions, evaluate effectiveness and ensure that youth policies are evidence-based and responsive.
In addition, the Austrian Youth Strategy has established coordination structures and research activities to support evidence-based policy-making. The Youth Competence Centre monitors the implementation of the youth objectives across all federal ministries. The Youth Screening Initiative promotes knowledge, transparency and adaptable measures in all ministries (Wissen- Transparenz-Gestaltungsspielraum).
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 an evidence-based approach, using research, reports and dialogue to inform effective and responsive youth policies.
In Austria, conducting research on young people is crucial for creating well-informed policies. In order to ensure that research findings can be used effectively for policy advice and prevention efforts, it is important to maintain high standards of reliability. While surveys and panorama studies are commonly used to collect quantitative data in youth research, qualitative methods such as individual or group interviews (known as focus groups) are also used to gain a deeper understanding of youth issues.
Youth research takes an interdisciplinary approach, combining different methods and focusing on different areas of research, including education, youth work, social services, the labour market, transitions, health and well-being, and justice. Its main aim is to provide up-to-date analysis of the challenges facing young people and to contribute to the development of comprehensive and inclusive youth policies. These policies aim to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world (Gniewosz 2022; Hoffmann 2022).
Austria promotes collaboration between policy and research to develop evidence-based policies for young people. The Austrian Youth Strategy, coordinated by the Competence Centre for Youth in the Federal Chancellery, facilitates this cooperation by providing youth-related facts and research. Ministries also support research projects on youth issues relevant to their areas. The government member responsible for youth affairs presents a youth report (Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Östereich) in each legislative period, which includes current facts and figures on Austrian youth. This report informs youth policymaking. Overall, policy and research on youth in Austria collaborate in several ways:
Government Funding for Youth-Related Research
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.
Advisory Committees and Expert Groups
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.
Collaboration between Government, Universities, and Research Institutions
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 for Knowledge Exchange
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 umbrella organisation represents 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.
Austrian Youth Research Network (Netzwerk Jugendforschung.at)
The Austrian Youth Research Network 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.
Statistical data on youth in Austria is collected through surveys, censuses, administrative records, and research studies by various entities such as Statistics Austria, public authorities (e.g. the Public Employment Service and the Chamber of Commerce), and research institutions. These data are analysed using statistical techniques to gain insights into youth trends. The findings are shared through official publications, online databases, and portals, providing policymakers and stakeholders with access to relevant statistics for informed decision-making.
Government administrations and statistical offices are working together to facilitate direct access to specialised datasets and to share reports and presentations highlighting key findings through conferences and workshops. These efforts aim to raise awareness of youth-related issues. In addition, provincial governments actively participate in data collection and support youth policies.This section compiles key national statistical data on youth issues in Austria.
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 (Österreichisches Institut für Familienforschung – ÖIF)
The Austrian Institute for Family Research (AIF) 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.
The Institute for Youth Culture Research (Institut für Jugendkulturforschung)
Traditional survey research methods struggle to keep up with rapid technological, social, and cultural changes. To understand emerging trends in real time, additional approaches are needed, such as qualitative questioning of young innovator groups and continuous monitoring of topic trends using scientific methods.
The Institute for Youth Culture Research addresses this need through its Youth Trend Monitor Tracts (Jugendtrendbeobachtung). This approach combines qualitative questioning and systematic trend monitoring to provide practical insights for institutions and providers in the youth sector. The aim is to capture the dynamic nature of youth culture and provide relevant findings for decision-makers.
Since 2001, the Institute for Youth Culture Research has conducted practical and relevant research on youth. Since 2016, it has also operated a generationlab (in German) that offers contract research, expert opinions, and consulting services on generational topics for authorities. By combining interpretative and statistical methods, the institute ensures high-quality results in applied research.
Report on the Situation of Young People in Austria (Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Östereich)
The Austrian government is required to present an ‘up-to-date report on the situation of young people in Austria’ based on a resolution passed in 1988. The most recent report, the '7th Report on the Situation of Young People in Austria,' provides comprehensive insights and is divided into three sections. Section A presents statistical data on young people in Austria. Section B focuses on the 'Better-Life-Index of Youth,' which assesses and improves their quality of life. Section C highlights the Austrian Youth Strategy and its supporting provisions from federal ministries, the Austrian National Youth Council, and the Federal Youth Employment Network.
Previous youth reports (2011; 2007; 1999; 1993; 1987) have addressed gender mainstreaming, youth work, leisure situations, and participation opportunities. These reports offer a holistic view of the circumstances and challenges young people face in Austrian society. By combining scientific expertise, analysis of living conditions, and policy recommendations, they serve as crucial resources for policy-makers and practitioners, informing responsible youth policies and providing valuable insights into the needs and perspectives of young Austrians.
There is no specific federal budget for youth research in Austria, but different ministries and departments allocate funds for youth research on the basis of their respective responsibilities as defined in the Federal Ministries Act of 1986 (Bundesministeriengesetz 1986).
The Federal Chancellery, which is responsible for youth affairs, financially supports research projects related to youth policy, youth work and youth development. This funding also covers participation in international youth policy networks such as the European Knowledge Centre for Youth Policy. The results of these networks contribute to the implementation of the Austrian Youth Strategy and the structured dialogue. The Federal Chancellery also allocates a budget for the preparation of a report on the situation of young people in Austria (Bericht zur Lage der Jugend in Österreich) during each legislative period, which provides valuable data for evidence-based decision-making.
In addition, the Ministry of Education, Science, and Research can provide funding for research projects focusing on the education and learning of young people. These initiatives aim to improve knowledge in areas such as educational practices, learning outcomes and the specific educational needs of young people.