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EACEA National Policies Platform


1. Youth Policy Governance

1.6 Evidence-based youth policy

Last update: 30 March 2024
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  1. Political Commitment to Evidence-Based Youth Policy
  2. Cooperation between policy-making and research
  3. National Statistics and available data sources
  4. Budgetary Allocations supporting research in the youth field

Political Commitment to Evidence-Based Youth Policy

The Policy Note Youth 2019-2024 mentions that an ambitious youth policy is underpinned by reliable data, information and knowledge. Youth research is considered as one of the policy instruments with the aim of developing knowledge-driven policies. Strategic goal 6 of the Policy Note puts forward 'An underpinned youth policy through knowledge and reserach. This is further operationalised as investing in a solid knowledge base on the youth sector with a focus on research on current policy issues and new developments.

The Youth Research Platform (Jeugdonderzoeksplatform) was created in Spring 2003 at the initiative of the Flemish Minister for Home Affairs, Culture, Youth and the Civil Service. The JOP has performed policy-oriented research activities since then. JOP is an interdisciplinary and interuniversity partnership between Ghent University, Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KULeuven.  

The Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre (Kenniscentrum Kinderrechten) aims to increase knowledge of children’s rights at national and international level. The Knowledge Centre on Children’s Rights takes an interdisciplinary approach to children’s rights based on scientific research. 

In addition, the Department of Culture, Youth and Media also commissions in-depth studies on specific topics that are less measurable or specific target groups that remain invisible in surveys or registrations. These studies have for example focused on youth work with children and young people in socially vulnerable situations, young people in residential care, youth work for young people with disabilities, leisure for young people with a migration background. For an overview of recent studies, look here.

Cooperation between policy-making and research

The Department of Culture, Youth and Media subsidizes the Flemish Youth Research Platform (Jeugdonderzoeksplatform or short: JOP) as a scientific knowledge centre for youth. The main task of the JOP is to draw up the State of Youth, the large-scale five-yearly survey of the world of Flemish youth. In addition, the JOP is also responsible for the inventarisation of youth research in Flanders via the youth research database, valorising and publicising the research for policy and the sector, and providing scientific and methodological support to the youth policy field. It also plays a role in Flemish and international networks on youth research.

The ‘Research network on children and young people in Flanders’ was set up in 2011 by the (at that time) Division Youth of the ministry. Today, the Division ‘Knowledge and policy’ organises the network group youth research. Within this network group, the Department of Culture, Youth and Media informally coordinates with youth researchers, colleagues from other policy fields and a number of actors in the field. Thus, knowledge is exchanged about ongoing and completed research, but also about, for example, interesting methodologies for research with children and young people, about how to valorise and disseminate research,...

Furthermore, the policy themes of the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Policy Plan 2020-2024 (well-being and positive youth development; healthy and thriving neighbourhoods; participation in society through voluntary commitment; leisure for all and media literacy) are based on an extensive environmental analysis. The environmental analysis is the foundation and gives an overview of relevant trends, figures and scientific research, such as the JOP-monitor.

National statistics and available data sources

The Flemish government has been mapping the youth (work) policy of the local governments in the ‘cijferboek’ (book with quantitative figures). This book was prepared in every three years. It was a questionnaire, which monitored the policy of local governments concerning youth. This questionnaire resulted in quantitative figures on the local youth policy, such as political responsibilities, youth councils, presence and support of youth work, infrastructure of youth work, youth space, information for youth and communication and cooperation with other sectors 

This regularity stopped in 2014. As a result of the introduction of the policy and management cycle at 1 January 2014 the planning and reporting obligations of the local authorities drastically changed. From then on, the objectives of the municipal youth policy were included within a broad municipal multiannual plan. A new book with quanitative figures (’cijferboek') was then developed, based on the situation of the municipalities at the start of this reform. The university KULeuven was given the task to perform a baseline measurement in the local authorities in 2014. The goal was to examine in which manner the local authorities give shape to their youth(work)policy at the beginning of the strategic multiannual planning. This study is not intended as an evaluation of the policy but has to reveal in which manner policy is/was executed, what are opportunities and threats and how the Flemish administration can support the local authorities. The aim is to get a clear view on how the local policymaking evolved after a period of four year. 

In 2016 a 1-measurement was conducted. This 1-measurement – again – tries to gain more insights into the setting up and the execution of the strategic multiannual plan. Themes such as the role of the youth civil servant, participation of children and young people, financial youth policy, and so on were addressed. Also concrete policy recommendations were formulated. Just like in 2014, an extensive web survey was used and completed by youth civil servants and youth council members. 

A 2-measurement was conducted in 2021. The focus of this measurement was once again the setting up and execution of youth policy as part of the strategic multiannual plan (2020-2025) of municipal authorities. An extensive web survey on youth policy was sent to the youth civil servants, representative of youth and chairman of the youth council of all Flemish municipalities. The data from this survey was complemented by three interviews with experts from the steering group and five focus groups with 28 key stakeholders. Just like in 2016, the role of the youth civil servant, participation of children and young people, financial youth policy and so on were the themes. 

The Youth monitor (JOP-monitor) carried out by the Youth Research Platform (JOP) is a youth-centered data source on youth. Since 2005 the JOP gathers empirical data on Flemish youth on a recurrent basis (every five years). The JOP-monitor monitors the life-conditions and activities of young people through a standardized questionnaire. The first JOP-monitor was conducted in 2005-2006, the second one in 2008, the third one in 2013, the fourth one in 2018 and the fifth one in 2023 (see 1.4 Policy monitoring and evaluation). In addition, a first Child Monitor was undertaken in 2018. 
The content of the survey is based on existing scales and explicitely aims to document several topics relevant to Flemish youth such as well-being, school wellbeing, leisure time participation, engagement, political participation, etc. In 2023, the fifth wave of the JOP-monitor reached 1.650 Flemish young people between 12 and 25 years old. 

Next to these general surveys, three JOP city-monitors have been administered in the metropolitan cities Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels (in 2013, 2018 and 2023). These studies aim to bring more insight into the specificity of growing up and living in contemporary urban environments in Flanders. These studies offer more comprehensive and more nuanced insights in the living conditions, attitudes and behaviour of young people growing up in these three cities. The most recent city-monitor has been conducted in 2023 and included 5.660 young people in secondary education.

Based on these studies, the JOP has published several books on the living conditions, attitudes and behaviour of young people growing up in Flanders and in Flemish cities. Also it published four books with a specific focus, one on gender differences, one on the pressure on young people, one on diversity and one on. All information on publications of the Youth Research Platform can be found here.

Research, monitoring, data collection is the basis for a knowledge-based policy and a better insight of children and young people. Next to the JOP-monitor, also other research on specific themes concerning youth is executed ad hoc.

Since 1997, the Flemish government is obligated by decree to make a Child and Youth Effects Report (Kind en Jongereneffectrapport) on draft decrees directly affecting the interests of children, persons under 18. By decree of 18 July 2008 (decree on the conduct of a Flemish youth and children's rights policy the child impact report (KER) has been extended to a child and youth impact report (JoKER).

The JoKER is also included in the new Youth Decree (cf. article 7). This article mentions that with each draft decree submitted to the Flemish Parliament, a child and youth impact report, abbreviated to JoKER, is attached if the proposed decision directly affects the interests of persons under the age of 25.

The JoKER is a public document that should include: (1) a description of the impact of the proposed decision on the situation of the child or young person; (2) a description of the impact on the situation of the child or young person in the absence of the proposed decision; (3) alternatives to the proposed decision, in particular a description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, limit or mitigate significant adverse effects of the decision on the situation of the child or young person.

The Children's Rights Monitor incorporates all available material on children’s rights. This report aims at deepening and consistency and to assist in the environmental analysis of the next policy period, the reporting of the youth and children's rights policy and reporting to the UN Committee. In the monitor data is used of among other the youth monitors, EU-SILC, health survey, and different administrative data (e.g. of the Department of Education, the Department of well-being, etc). The monitor portrays the living conditions of children, as well as the context, processes and structures that have an impact on them. It provides materials to develop new or modify existing policies. At this moment a new version, the Children's Rights Monitor 2.0, is being developed.

Statistics Flanders (Statistiek Vlaanderen) is the network of Flemish government agencies that develop, produce and publish public statistics. These public statistics about Flanders cover a wide range of content: from the people who live and work there, to the economy and environment, to Flanders' place in the world. At the same time, the network provides users with a broader context by bringing statistics together thematically, drawing out trends and placing figures in a geographical framework. Though the data are not limited to young people in Flanders, some of the available statistics (such as the section on 'population and society') refer to youth in Flanders.

Budgetary Allocations supporting research in the youth field

The Flemish Government allocates funds to Knowledge Centre for Children's Rights (KeKi) to increase the knowledge on children’s rights on the national and international level.  

Furthermore, the Department of Culture, Youth and Media has a line of funding for the Youth Research Platform (JOP) and for research on specific themes concerning children and young people or youth work. This research is usually entrusted to a university, college, association or cooperation thereof.