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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023

Historical development

According to “History of youth houses in the French-speaking Community of Belgium 1949-2016 (Histoire des maisons de jeunes en Belgique francophone 1949-2016), from 19th Century, youth and culture policy is marked by a clear desire of state neutrality. The state’s role is secondary regarding the role of associations. These ones are created by the philosophical trends which exist in the Belgian society. This system gives birth to an organisation of the civil society in philosophical and political pillars (Socialism, Liberalism, and Catholicism). 

After World War II, the traumatism caused by the influence of totalitarism on youth develops a strong desire of freedom of association and the management of youth policy by young people themselves. The interest of the State for youth movements after war comes from the necessity to create spaces to learn democratic life and citizenship. This analysis results of war lessons (for instance, totalitarian regime using young people as medium of propagandia). 

Youth organisations (mainly scouts) were the first structures to emerge in the context of youth policy and youth work. They were at the initiatives of the authorities (downward movement). 

On the contrary, the emergency of youth houses was at the initiative of private actors such as teachers, municipalities, parishes, judicial authorities, etc. (upward movement). These structures appear firstly in working-class area in order to offer to disadvantaged young people a place where they can participate to educative and leisure activities. The main goal was then preventive. 


National definition

The French-speaking Community of Belgium shares the same definition of youth work as the Council of Europe: youth work is a wide concept covering a wide range of social, cultural, educative, environmental and/or political activities by, with and for young people, in groups or individually. Youth workers are either paid or volunteers. Youth work is based on informal and non-formal education centred on young people and their voluntary participation. It is a social practice with young people themselves and with societies in which they live, which facilitates the active participation of young people and their involvement in their communities, and decision-making.