5.4 Young people's participation in policy-making
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The participation and co-determination of young people at all political and societal levels, is an important priority of the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery (Sektion Familie und Jugend im Bundeskanzleramt). As youth policy in general, participation is a cross-sectional topic and requires implementation in all areas of politics.
The Department itself is a provider of input and coordinator for the establishment and extension of participation in a variety of fields. A central role is played by supporting clubs, associations, initiatives and projects. The Federal Youth Promotion Act (Bundes-Jugendförderungsgesetz), which came into effect in 2001, defines projects worthy of support as those which inter alia include both the co-determination and participation of young people in all areas of life and the youth work principles of responsibility, independence and the promotion of democracy.
As contemporary youth politics calls for young people's participation, active inclusion of youth is also a core criterion of the Austrian Youth Strategy. Consultations take place on national, regional and local levels. And in implementing the EU renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field into Austrian youth policy, the participation of young people played a particularly important role. With the new EU Youth Strategy 2019-2027, the Austrian results of the EU Youth Dialogue will also be integrated.
The Federal Youth Council (Bundesjugendvertretung, BJV) is the legally established representative body of children and youth in Austria. It advocates for the interests and ideas of young people in political negotiations and has obtained the status of a social partner on youth issues. It also engages in international projects and as a member of the European Youth Forum.
Youth Check and Reality Check
The Youth Check (Jugendcheck), in effect since 2013, establishes an effect-oriented impact assessment. The law stipulates that all new legislative and regulatory proposals be evaluated for the potential consequences they could have on children, young people and young adults. This instrument makes it easier for youth organisations, in particular, the National Youth Council, to become involved in the legislative process.
Through the Reality Check (in German), young people are to be involved in the development of the goals and measures for the Austrian Youth Strategy.
Participation Working Group (ARGE Partizipation)
The Participation Working Group is an institution of the provincial youth departments, because the implementation of co-determination and participation opportunities at provincial, regional and municipal levels is the competence of the respective federal state. Further members of the ARGE Partizipation include the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery, the Federal Youth Council in representation of young people, the Federal Open Youth Work Network the Federal Network of Austrian Youth Information Centres (Bundesnetzwerk Österreichische Jugendinfos), and the coordination office for the EU Youth Dialogue. The Working Group is to coordinate participative measures in Austria and to further develop them.
Consultation processes by the members of the National Working Group (e.g. among federal provinces) take place on a regional level. Within the framework of a structured dialogue, online consultation through the networking contacts of all National Working group members are performed. The outcomes are used to further develop the Austrian Youth Strategy and to implement more projects to foster social inclusion.
Research studies and stakeholder interviews
The Institute for Research on Qualifications and Training of the Austrian Economy (Institut für Bildungsforschung der Wirtschaft, ibw), the Austrian Institute for SME Research (KMU Forschung Austria) and the Institute for advanced studies (Institut für Höhere Studien, IHS) frequently conduct studies on behalf of public authorities. Within those studies, important stakeholders are interviewed. The outcomes of the studies are being considered in any kind of decision-making. A whole range of youth research institutions provide studies on youth issues (Jugendforschungsinstitutionen in Österreich), which establish the basis for a successful youth policy.
In the past, a number of youth surveys have been conducted and their results applied in developing the Austrian Youth Strategy. Most notable are the Youth monitor, the Youth strategy on tour, and the Better life-index (Open Delphi 4 youth).
Basic research was e.g. conducted to investigate the preconditions of the initiative to extend compulsory education until the age of 18 (AusBildung bis 18). It calculated the number of young people affected and analysed their need of support, in order to draw conclusions on which measures to implemented.
The youth monitor was carried out by several different institutions and based on telephone surveys, and on computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI). Surveys were performed every 3-4 months. With this method, the former Ministry for Families and Youth repeatedly interviewed 800 young people (aged 14-24) on their opinions and attitudes. A series of events was held by the Youth Competence Centreto present and discuss current research results and activities in the field of youth research
Within the context of ‘Youth strategy on tour’, young people were questioned using well-established social research methods. Furthermore, they had the opportunity to actively express and discuss their ideas, wishes, concerns and suggestions in workshops with their peers. Groups were formed to reach a maximum diversity within the youth population and to gain a better insight.
OD4Y (Open Delphi 4 youth/Better-life-index) constituted an open process to consult young people (aged 16 to 30) on specific topics, such as employment, education or well-being. The results had a direct impact on the development of the Austrian Youth Strategy.
Challenges to participation in times of the COVID-19 pandemic
According to the Austrian Survey on the 'Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth and the youth sector', in times of the fight against COVID-19, most of the decisions that massively influence the life of young people are taken on high levels and on very short notice. In this context, young people perceive the lack of a real chance to influence relevant decisions and a shortage of being asked for their opinion. It remains to be seen how this experience will shape the future discussion of young peoples participation in society.
Austrian Youth Information: Surveys and 'Get active' team
Any form of participation is based on information. The Austrian Youth Portal (Österreichisches Jugendportal) is operated by the Federal Network of Austrian Youth Information Centres (Bundesnetzwerk Österreichische Jugendinfos) on behalf of the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery. It offers aselectively chosen and regularly updated collection of annotated links to a wide array of youth-related topics, thereby making it easier for young people to remain informed. From the beginning onward, young people have been involved in the development of the Youth Portal. The website provides them with curated information on all topics and challenges relevant in young people's lifes.
On the Austrian Youth Portal (German only), regular online surveys are conducted on a wide variety of youth policy topics. Around 300 to 500 young people take part in each of these surveys. The results are published on the Youth Portal.
'Get active' team
In order to make the voices of young heard in important (political) decision-making processes, the Federal Network of Austrian Youth Information Centers and the Departement of Family and Youth at the Federal Chancellery have established the ‘Get active Team’. This ‘Youth Participation Pool’ gathers a group of young people who regularly participate actively in projects and plans for young people and want to co-develop them with various organisations. It consists of around 25 young people aged 16 to 24 from all over Austria. Since November 2017, they participate in projects of ministries and organisations that aim to better reach young people and involve them in the implementation of measures. The added value for the administration and the organisations is that their measures that more tailored towards the needs of young people. At the same time, young people have the opportunity to contribute their opinions to different projects, to actively participate and to cooperate with political decision-makers.
Dialogue Youth Research (Dialog Jugendforschung)
Dialogue Youth research is a series of events of the Youth Competence Centre at the Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery and serves to present and discuss recent research result and activities in the youth field.
The Department for Families and Youth at the Federal Chancellery is in charge of the consultation process, alongside regional authorities in charge of youth relevant topics and the Federal Ministries planning the adoption of a particular law with an impact on young people. Other institutional and non-governmental stakeholders may be involved in the processes depending on the specific topic.
The Austrian Institute for Family Research (Österreichisches Institut für Familienforschung) continuously protocols all youth relevant data, which have been collected by various institutions. This enables to quickly access any youth relevant topic and to easily link a variety of different data.
Main youth actors are the Federal Youth Council BJV (Bundesjugendvertretung, representing more than 50 member organisations), bOJA (bundesweites Netzwerk offene Jugendarbeit, representing open youth work), and BÖJI (Bundenetzwerk Österreichische Jugendinfos, representing youth information).
As a target group, consultations aim to include all young people in all their diversity.
The number of participants varies depending on the method used. As a high diversity is the survey goal, no specific target group is addressed. The number of participants in the participation process is usually documented, depending on the concrete project.
All outcomes – whether establishment of goals or assessments of efficiency - are considered in decision making by the federal and regional authorities. They shall be made available to the public on corresponding websites.
Austrian Youth Strategy, Youth Goals and Reality Check
The Austrian Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie) is continously adapted to the changing challenges. It is based on regular youth screenings and input from young people and their representatives. In this context, four areas of activity (Handlungsfelder) were determined and broken down into further detailed national Youth Goals (nationale Jugendziele).
The four areas of activity of the Austrian Youth Strategy (2020):
- Education and employment (best possible evolvement of everyone's talents to allow youths to persist in the evolving challenges of the labour market)
- Participation and involvement (increased incentives and recognition in order to elevate societal commitments of young people)
- Quality of life and togetherness (equiping youth with relevant instruments to lead an independent and autonomous life, e.g. in terms of health, environment, family, mobility, life perspectives and satisfaction)
- Media and information (seizing the opportunities of digitalisation by promoting the media competence of young people and their caregivers, provision of information fit and relevant for youth)
EU Youth Goals
In the 7th edition of the EU Youth Dialogue on 'Creating opportunities for youth', 3,300 young Austrians (of 30,000 participating young Europeans) became involved and gave input on their attitudes, interests and needs. They participated via online questioning and local dialogue workshops. Austria has been supporting the eleven European Youth Goals developed in 2018 through a youth consultation that involved 50.000 young Europeans. The goals envision policies in these areas:
- Connecting EU with Youth
- Equality of All Genders
- Inclusive Societies
- Information & Constructive Dialogue
- Mental Health & Wellbeing
- Moving Rural Youth Forward
- Quality Employment for All
- Quality Learning
- Space and Participation for All
- Sustainable Green Europe
- Youth Organisations & European Programmes
Among these initiatives is the ‘Get active Team’, depicted above (under Youth Information).
Youth Speech competition (Bundes-Jugendredewettbewerb)
Eloquent youngsters can speak up on topics of importance to them. At the youth-speech competition (Bundes-Jugendredewettbewerb), they present their ideas, opinions and positions - in the form of a classical speech, a spontaneous speech or a creative presentation. The competition first takes place on a regional level, organised by the regional authorities. The winners take part in the national competition organised by the national authorities. These competitions enable and encourage young people to propagate their ideas and opinions on issues they care about - whether climate change, gender roles, or COVID-19.
Giving Young People a louder Voice
The model initiative ‘Giving Young People a louder Voice’ collected the results of participation projects, processes them according to the target group and publishes them. Wishes and ideas of young people which have originated within the scope of youth participation processes are presented online. The main matters of interest comprise, among others, employment, education, health, leisure time, money, politics and media.