1.4 Youth policy decision-making
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This section describes the way youth policy is developed in the national system. It is subdivided into three major parts: (I) the institutional structure of decision-making and its contributing actors, (II) the main themes covered by youth policy, and (III) whether and how youth policy is monitored and evaluated.
Youth policy takes place at all levels of government, i.e. state, regional, and municipal.
There is no minister of youth in Denmark. Instead, the decision-making process regarding youth policy resembles the general decision-making process in Denmark:
Denmark is a representative democracy. The constitution of 1849 (Danmarks Riges Grundlov, Lov nr. 169 af 05/06/1953) establised a tripartition of power:
- The Government constitutes the executive power
- Parliament and Government constitute the legislative power
- The courts of justice constitute the judicial power
The government constitutes the executive power and is responsible for the implementation of laws in Denmark. The government defines the overall objectives of all the policies in Denmark – including youth policies.
The Danish parliament (Folketinget) constitutes the legislative power, which means that the parliament must pass all laws. Parliament and the government may both introduce proposals for new legislation.
Often, a political settlement (forlig) has been reached prior to the presentation and negotiation of a bill in parliament. Political settlements are not part of the constitution or the parliament's order of business, but they are a common practice. As long as a political settlement is in effect, all parties behind the settlement have veto power in relation to amendments. This means that if the government wishes to amend a law included in a political settlement, all parties behind the settlement must approve the amendment. Political settlements imply that a large majority or all parties in parliament are behind a new act. The practice makes laws and reforms long-lasting.
An integral part of the Danish political decision-making process is to consult affected public and private partners when bills are formulated. In the consultation exercise, organisations must submit their comments on the bill in writing. This process ensures that vital perspectives are not overlooked by politicians.
The courts exercise judicial power in Denmark and have exclusive competence to decide whether Danish citizens or foreigners residing in Denmark have broken the laws of the country. Neither the Danish parliament nor the government have the authority to judge a citizen.
See section 5.1 for a detailed description of Danish institutions of representative democracy.
The government’s work procedures
The prime minister has the ultimate responsibility for the coordination of government policy. The government coordinates its long-term policy in the government platform, which may include a section on children and youth policy.
Furthermore, at the beginning of each parliamentary year, the prime minister is obliged to deliver an opening speech to the parliament and an overview of the bills the government intends to present in the current term. The overview also contains information about upcoming minister statements to the parliament. The overview of the parliamentary year 2021/2022 can be seen here.
Every Tuesday, the government meets in the prime minister’s office. The government coordinates, prepares and discusses bills, statements and initiatives before the ministers present them in the parliament.
Furthermore, the government coordinates its policies in a range of committees. The following committees may be relevant for decision-making in relation to youth policy.
The coordination committee coordinates the government’s major and significant policy initiatives. Currently, the committee is constituted by:
The prime minister (chair)
The minister for finance
The minister for foreign affairs
The minister of justice
The minister for taxation
The economic committee is the government’s coordinating body regarding economic affairs. The economic committee deals with the finance bill, the economy of the regions and the municipalities, and other issues with major impacts on the economy and the state budget.
The economic committee is constituted by:
The minister for finance (chair)
The minister for social affairs and senior citizens
The minister for taxation
The minister for climate, energy and utilities
The minister for industry, business and financial affairs
The minister for employment
The committee for green transition deals with initiatives and issues in relation to the green transition across policy sectors, for instance bills and major government initiatives. Normally, the committee meets every other week. The members of the committee are:
- The minister for climate, energy and utilities (chair)
- The minister for taxation
- The minister for transport
- The minister for food, agriculture and fisheries
- The minister for higher education and science
- The minister for industry, business and financial affairs
- The minister for environment
In Denmark, preparing legislation regarding young people is the responsibility of the different sector ministries (only ministries with relevance for the formulation, evaluation, and monitoring of Danish youth policy are mentioned):
The Prime Minister’s Office
The prime minister has the ultimate responsibility for the coordination of government policy. The main responsibilities of the Prime Minister’s Office are to act as the prime minister’s secretariat and assist the prime minister in the management of the government’s work.
Within the area of domestic affairs, all cases and responsibilities in the fields of economics and domestic affairs that require the prime minister's involvement and participation are prepared. The area of domestic affairs also includes the task of preparing and coordinating material to be used for the government’s weekly meetings and for the government's coordination committee. The government's legislative programme is also based within the area of domestic affairs. All this takes place in a close cooperation between the Prime Minister’s Office and the individual ministries.
The prime minister has strengthened the Prime Minister’s Office in order to better develop and prioritise the government’s policy: In July 2019, the Prime Minister established a new unit in the Prime Minister’s Office: the political secretariat. The political secretariat has a special focus on the government's priority projects and policy development. Furthermore, the secretariat is working to strengthen the strategic direction of the government and increase internal coordination between ministers and special advisers.
In September 2019, the prime minister has implemented an organisational expansion of the Prime Minister’s Office. Within the area of domestic affairs, a head of development will manage the unit together with the head of domestic affairs unit. Furthermore, five employees from other ministries are employed.
The head of development is responsible for developing highly prioritised government initiatives in close cooperation with the ministries and following up on the implementation of highly prioritised government initiatives.
The Ministry of Culture
In relation to young people, the Ministry of Culture is responsible for:
- The non-formal general adult education (folkeoplysning, see section 2.1)
- The profits from the national lottery and football pools (udlodningsmidlerne, see section 2.1)
- Culture policy for young people
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens
- Socially marginalised children/children with fewer opportunities
- Children with special needs
- People with disabilities
- Civil society and the social voluntary sector
- Family law
The Ministry of the Interior and Housing
- Structural policy
- Governance of municipalities and regions
- Economics of municipalities and regions
- Elections and referenda
The Ministry of Children and Education
- Primary and lower secondary education (folkeskole) (ISCED 1 and 2).
- General and vocational upper secondary education (ISCED 3 and IVET).
- The Danish minister for children and education is the acting minister for the youth field with regard to the Council of Youth Ministers of the European Union.
The minister for equal opportunities
The minister is charged with developing and coordinating the government’s policies on equal rights, including gender equality.
The Ministry of Health
- Healthcare in Denmark
- The quality of healthcare in Denmark
- The psychiatric system
The Ministry of Employment
- Working conditions
- Working environment and workplace injuries
The Ministry of Higher Education and Science
- State education grants
The Ministry of Justice
- The justice system in Denmark
The Ministry of Immigration and Integration
- Immigration: entry, residence, and asylum
- Integration: integration of refugees and immigrants in society (e.g. the labour market and education system, Danish lessons, tests for non-Danish citizens)
- Prevention of extremism and radicalisation
- Honour-related conflicts and negative social control
Denmark is divided in five regions:
- The North Denmark Region
- Central Denmark Region
- The Region of Southern Denmark
- Region Zealand
- The Capital Region of Denmark
The regions must safeguard a number of tasks in accordance with the national legislation. The regions are responsible for:
- Healthcare in Denmark in relation to somatic and psychiatric treatment
- Regional growth and development
- Public transportation
- Special education
- Coordination of youth educations (in relation to location, capacity, etc.)
The regions’ economy is part of the public budget. Therefore, the regions’ spending is balanced in proportion to the other parts of the public sector. Every year, the government and Danish Regions enter into an economic agreement on the regional spending and the regional tasks.
Denmark has local government (kommunalt selvstyre). The right of municipalities to manage their own affairs independently is established in the constitution § 82. Furthermore, the Danish Constitution prescribes that some of the public tasks should be allocated to the local governments. However, the Danish parliament decides how much should be allocated. It is also prescribed that the municipalities are subject to state supervision
Thus, the welfare services may vary locally depending on the priorities made by the local government.
The municipal economy is established in annual economic agreements between the government and Local Government Denmark (KL). Typically, the agreement establishes the total level of expenditure on services and facilities as well as the level of municipal taxation.
Furthermore, Denmark has a system to balance the worst inequalities among municipal economies in order to ensure that citizens can expect more or less the same service level no matter if they live in a wealthy or a poor municipality.
The 98 municipalities are responsible for the main part of welfare services that people meet in their everyday life (list not complete):
- Day-care institutions
- Primary and lower secondary education (folkeskole)
- Elderly care
- Part of the healthcare system (prevention, nursing and rehabilitation outside hospitalisation)
- Culture and leisure activities
- Voluntary social work (see section 2.1)
- Active labour market measures in the local job centre (see section 3.6)
- Social benefits
- Integration of people with immigrant background
- Whether the municipality establishes a youth council or a joint pupil’s council or not
According to the Act on Municipal Governance (Bekendtgørelse af lov om kommunernes styrelse, LBK nr 47 af 15/01/2019), municipalities are required by law to appoint a finance committee, and one or more standing committees. Committees are responsible for the preparation and implementation of the council decisions and for the administration of local authority functions. They also make decisions on behalf of the council. Many municipalities have a children and family committee with the task of managing day-care institutions, primary and lower secondary institutions, youth clubs and youth schools, etc.
According to the Act on Legal Protection and Administration in Social Matters (Bekendtgørelse af lov om retssikkerhed og administration på det sociale område, Act no. 930 of 17/09/2012) and Act on Social Services (Lov om social service, LBK nr 798 af 07/08/2019), a municipal child and youth committee administers cases on the forcible removal of children. The committee is independent from the municipal council.
The municipalities receive state block grants (see section 1.7) and make decisions regarding the allocation of funds.
Furthermore, according to the Act on Social Services §19 (Lov om social service, LBK nr 798 af 07/08/2019), the municipalities must develop a coherent children and youth policy. The policy must deal with:
- Children and young people with special needs (physical or psychological disabilities or other types of needs)
- Children and young people without special needs
The municipality is obliged to develop a special measure in order to prevent and treat child abuse.
Furthermore, with the Consolidation act on Municipal Provision for Young People under 25 (Lov om kommunal indsats for unge under 25 år,LBK nr 1301 af 04/09/2020) municipalities have full responsibility for young people under 25 years. Municipalities are responsible for coordinating guidance offers, educational offers, and employment offers for young people.
The municipalities are under state supervision by the Social Appeals Board (Ankestyrelsen). The Social Appeals Board monitors whether the municipalities administer in accordance with the laws that apply to public authorities. For instance:
- Public Administration Act (Forvaltningsloven)
- Public Records Act (Offentlighedsloven)
- Act on Local Government (Kommunestyrelsesloven)
This section describes the main policy themes addressed by national youth policy, including what informs the choices of themes, and how the themes are identified at top-level.
Danish youth policy is multidisciplinary and deals with issues in areas such as education, employment, housing, health, participation, culture, and leisure.
The scope of Danish youth policy is that all children and young people should have the best start in life (government platform). Regardless of social background, children and young people must have the same possibilities to learn, develop, thrive and be educated.
The general focus is on young people’s well-being and early intervention. The main purpose is to diminish the group of NEETs (neither in employment nor in education and training) and to increase young people’s active citizenship.
A wide range of factors inform the choice of themes in the Danish youth policy
Danish youth policy must comply with a series of international conventions:
- UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
- UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
- EU Convention on Human Rights
Danish governments support the EU Youth Guarantee.
Denmark has established national targets in order to comply with the Europe 2020 strategy. Some of the targets affect the Danish youth policy in the area of employment, education, and social inclusion. The national report ‘Denmark’s National Reform Programme’ describes the Danish compliance.
Danish universities are obliged to conduct research-based consultancy. See section 1.6.
Research conducted at the universities, national knowledge centres, national councils and research centres draws attention to effects, problems, international inspiration and possibilities for development that may be used as arguments in political discussions. See section 1.6.
National knowledge centres collect, produce and distribute knowledge, for instance (List not complete):
- The Danish Centre for Teaching Environment (DCUM)
- The Knowledge Centre for Non-Formal General Adult Education (VIFO)
- The National Knowledge and Special Needs Advisor Organisaton (VISO)
- The Centre for Voluntary Social Work (CFSA)
- The Knowledge Centre for Social Measures Against Violence and Sexual Abuse of Children and Young People (Videnscenter for sociale indsatser ved vold og seksuelle overgreb mod børn - SISO)
- The Danish National Center for Grief (Det nationale sorgcenter)
Please also see section 1.6.
National councils and committees
National councils and committees advise ministers, politicians and public authorities, as well as discuss policy proposals/ legislation and participate in current debates. The councils are obliged to formulate consultative statements in their sector area. Some councils are concerned with the area of youth policy, for instance (list not complete).:
The National Council for Volunteering (Frivilligrådet). The council advises the minister for social affairs and senior citizens as well as the Danish parliament (Folketinget) on volunteering in relation to social challenges. The purpose of the council is to contribute to the public debate on the voluntary sector’s role in the future development of the welfare society, including the sector’s cooperation with the public and private sectors.
The Danish Disability Council (Det centrale Handicapråd). The council advises politicians, authorities and organisations on how they can improve conditions for people with disabilities.
The National Council for Socially Marginalised (Rådet for Socialt Udsatte). The council must ensure that socially marginalised citizens are heard in policymaking processes and in the public. The council is in close dialogue with socially marginalised citizens and distributes knowledge about the area to the public.
Council for Children’s Learning (Rådet for børns læring). The council monitors and assesses the academic level, the pedagogic development and the pupils’ benefit from education. Furthermore, the council advises the minister of children and education. As of 2018, the focus areas of the council are quality education, the balance between public and private schools and digitalisation.
Youth Climate Council (Ungeklimarådet). The Youth Climate Council gives input on the solutions of climate challenges to the minister for climate, energy and utilities. See section 9.3 “global issues exchanges with policy-makers at the domestic level”.
In the case of larger reforms, ministers set up expert groups, committees or commissions with knowledge on a specific area. In accordance with the mandate from the minister, the group/committee/commission conducts a set of analyses and recommendations for the minister to include in the formulation of policy proposals.
The Ministry of Finance has produced a list of councils, expert groups and committees established from June 2016 to April 2019. Some of them are relevant for youth policy decision-making.
Interest organisations, social partners, and associations
Interest organisations, social partners and associations are consulted in Danish policymaking. Politicians consult interest organisations during the formulation of bills or analyses of the opposition’s bills. The consultation is a mechanism to ensure that all perspectives are included in the final proposal.
Ministries are obliged to send bills in a formal consultation. See section 5.4 Interest organisations and private persons may contact politicians regarding specific concerns of the organisations’ members.
Since January 2018, all persons entitled to vote in general elections in Denmark can formulate a policy proposal if a minimum of three additional persons sign the proposal. If the proposal subsequently receives support from 50 000 persons entitled to vote in general elections, the parliament is obliged to discuss and vote on the motion.
Youth-related citizen motions that have been passed in parliament (examples):
- Minimum 6 months grief leave when parents lose a child in the 0-18-year age group.
Monitoring and evaluation of youth policies
The national legislation is subject to monitoring and evaluation by national agencies, ministries and a range of public institutions. These evaluations, analyses and reports are the basis for the development of new policies and policy reforms.
See below for a detailed description of how the monitoring and evaluation of youth policy are conducted in Denmark.
Any child or young person with a particular need for assistance are specific target groups for youth policy in Denmark. All preventive and supporting welfare initiatives have a substantial child and youth segment.
Specific target groups include:
- Young people not in employment, education or training (NEET's)
- Lower income
- Complex and difficult socio-demographic conditions
- The physically and mentally disabled
- Special education, learning difficulties
- Young people with a minority background and LGBTQ youth
- Youth who experience bullying and violence/abuse
- Youth with criminal behaviour
- Youth who are in danger of joining extremist/terrorist networks
There is no national agency for youth.
This section describes whether and how the main policy measures and programmes in the field of youth are evaluated and monitored.
The policies and measures in the field of youth policy are monitored and evaluated. Evaluation can be conducted by a ministry or agency (internal), by researchers (external) or by a range of state institutions. Some monitoring and evaluations are ad hoc while others are regular.
The national legislation is subject to monitoring and evaluation by national agencies. These evaluations, analyses and reports are the basis for the development of new policies and policy reforms.
Each sector ministry is responsible for national agencies that perform monitoring, evaluation and reporting.
Monitoring and evaluation under the auspices of the Ministry of Employment:
The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment (STAR) is responsible for implementing and following-up on employment policies in Denmark. The agency initiates tests, analyses, projects and reviews in order to establish a firm knowledge of which measures have a positive effect.
Ad hoc evaluations:
RCT (randomised controlled trial) is used to determine whether a cause–effect relationship exists between an employment measure and an outcome. Participants are divided into two groups: one group participates in the specific employment measure, which is tested, and the other group receives the standard employment measure.
When RCT is not possible, knowledge pilot projects are initiated, for instance ‘Bridge-building to education’.
The agency develops literature reviews based on Danish and international research on the effects of employment policies.
When no knowledge about a measure is available, the agency initiates inspiration projects in order to develop hypotheses and theories to test at a later stage.
The agency conducts practice reports on the implementation of employment policy reforms. The purpose of the reports is to ensure a uniform implementation of reforms in all municipalities. Most reports available on the agency’s website are conducted by external actors.
The agency conducts register-based analysis. In register-based analyses, the effects of mechanisms in employment policies are estimated. One example is:
The agency runs a knowledge bank called Job Effects (Jobeffekter). The knowledge bank collects and communicates research results in the area of employment policies. On the portal, it is possible to compare the effects of specific measures aimed at specific target groups. Furthermore, the portal also contains effect studies of employment measures.
Furthermore, the agency monitors all unemployment insurance funds and municipalities in their compliance with the law.
The Ministry of Children and Education
The National Agency for Teaching and Quality collects and distributes research on teaching and learning. Furthermore, the agency is responsible for a range of projects in order to gain new perspectives and knowledge, for instance:
- Evaluation and research in connection with the primary and lower secondary education (folkeskole) reform. The focus areas are implementation and effects.
- Evaluations of pupils’ well-being.
The agency also supervises all education institutions under the auspices of the ministry. The supervision covers the quality of education, economy, institutional matters/conditions and law compliance.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Children and Education funds projects that develop teaching. The purpose of the funding is to provide evidence-based knowledge on effective methods in schools and education institutions for the benefit of pupils. The knowledge is used in the development of new policies.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens often evaluates measures as a follow-up on new legislation. However, there is no specific focus on the 13-30-year age group.
The National Board of Social Services evaluates projects and pools of funding. The evaluations can be midterm or final evaluations.
Furthermore, the National Council for Children collects knowledge on children’s conditions in Denmark. There is no regulation on the frequency of the studies.
The Ministry of Higher Education and Science
From time to time, the ministry initiates evaluations of areas within the ministry’s field of responsibility, for instance education programmes, the admission system, the grading scale, etc. The evaluations are ad hoc and the mechanisms differ. Some evaluations are conducted by the ministry or agencies under the ministry while others are conducted by external researchers or market research companies.
The Danish Agency for Higher Education and Science is the supervising authority of higher education institutions. The systematic supervision of education institutions is based on:
- The education institutions’ annual reports and auditor’s records (economic supervision).
- The supervision in relation to the strategic framework contracts is based on annual progress reports from the education institutions. The contracts contain specific measurable strategic targets in relation to the education institution’s key tasks, which are established in a dialogue between the institution and the ministry.
Other types of supervision are ad hoc:
- Thematic supervision: supervision of selected themes or single issues. The purpose of thematic supervision is to monitor if new regulations have the intended effect or if new legislation is properly implemented. Reports based on the thematic supervision are published on the ministry’s website.
The Ministry of Health
The Danish Health Authority has the overall responsibility for monitoring and evaluating trends in the health and well-being within the Danish population, including the Danish youth. The Danish Health Authority initiates evaluations of projects and campaigns, for instance:
Specific publications and topics are described in detail on the Danish Health Authority’s website: https://www.sst.dk/en/English
Other institutions such as the National Institute of Public Health also contribute with monitoring the health among the Danish youth. This work is conducted through special agreements with the Ministry of Health.
With regard to more specific evaluations, two overall reports can be mentioned. The National Health Profile and ‘Skolebørnsundersøgelsen’/Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) are published every four years. They describe the overall pattern regarding health and well-being in the Danish population and youth.
The National Health Profile
Every four years, a National Health Profile report is published by the Danish Health Authority in collaboration with the five Danish regions and the National Institute of Public Health. The most recent National Health Profile was published in 2017, and a new version is expected to be published in 2021. In this report series, data on Danish citizens aged 16 years and above is monitored in relation to the following topics:
- Health and well-being
- Health behaviour
- Contact with the healthcare system
- Social relations
- Good life years
The results are used as a basis to coordinate health promotion interventions as well as to identify regional and municipal health differences in the Danish population. In addition, the data is used to monitor and evaluate the development in various health figures.
Skolebørnsundersøgelsen is the Danish contribution to the WHO cross-national study Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children. This study has been conducted in Denmark since 1982, and the most recent report was published in 2018 by the National Institute of Public Health. The report is based on a questionnaire survey of 11-15-year-old school children and covers topics such as self-reported health, well-being and health behaviour. The results are used for research purposes as well as health promotion initiatives targeting Danish youth.
Evaluation and monitoring performed by other state institutions
The Social Appeals Board (Ankestyrelsen). The Social Appeals Board is an independent state institution that settles complaint cases from citizens in Denmark regarding social policy and labour market policy. Furthermore, the Social Appeals Board supervises municipalities and regions. The Social Appeals Board can initiate inquiries regarding municipalities’ implementation of social policy and labour market policy. The analyses strengthen the quality of municipal administration and equal treatment of citizens across the country. Examples of analyses in relation to young people:
- Municipal practices regarding placement of children and young people in own rooms
- Municipal practices regarding visitation of young people below 30 years without education
The Social Supervision (Socialtilsynet). In every region, one municipality is in charge of the supervision of all social measures in the region. The supervision is a quality assurance measure.
Benchmarking Unit (Benchmarkingenhed). The Benchmarking Unit is an independent institution. The unit provides analyses of the municipalities’ and regions’ performance, for instance:
- NEETs in the 98 municipalities
- Inclusion in the public primary and lower secondary education (folkeskole)
- The connection of young people with mental issues to the labour market and education
The Ombudsman for Children section. The Danish Ombudsman for Children can initiate cases when there is an indication of a public authority’s non-compliance with the law. Furthermore, the ombudsman visits private and public institutions where young people are placed in care outside the home. Finally, the ombudsman oversees that international conventions on children are complied with.
Besides the audits of public spending, the National Audit Office of Denmark conducts performance studies, called major studies, that cover a wide range of subjects and reflect what the National Audit Office consider essential for efficient, effective and financially sound administration. The National Audit Office has a follow-up procedure that contributes to ensuring that the audits are effective. The responsible minister is asked to submit his/her comments to the report with a statement on what will be implemented to meet the recommendations of the audit office. The ministerial statement and the follow-up memoranda prepared by the audit office are made public and submitted to the parliament and form the basis for the parliament’s approval of the governmental accounts for the fiscal year.
Examples of major studies and follow-up procedures in relation to children and young people in 2020:
- Report on the measures to keep young people with fewer opportunities in education
- Memorandum on the efforts towards children placed out of home
- Memorandum on the report on administration of ECTS points in higher education institutions
Ad hoc evaluations
Instead of evaluations made by national agencies, the sector ministries can choose to make the evaluation subject to competition. In some instances, analyses, consultancy services and evaluations are subject to procurement rules and must be published at the portal Udbud.
Research centres and private consultancy enterprises can apply, and the public provider must make a choice based on price as well as criteria established in the project description.
Some evaluations are made at regular intervals, for instance the social policy report (Socialpolitisk redegørelse 2019) and the report on higher education and science (Uddannelses- og forskningspolitisk redegørelse 2019). These are annual publications.
Type of outcomes
The evaluations are used in several ways:
- To inform policymaking
- To initiate reforms if the evaluations indicate inefficient measures or unintended consequences
- To validate methods
- To develop and improve methods