1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
On this page
On this page
This section provides an overview of how youth policy is informed by research on youth issues. In Denmark, the field of youth policy resembles other fields of public policy and is informed by evidence, data and research. The commitment to evidence-based policy is explicit:
Denmark has two government research institutes, NFA and SSI. A government research institute is financed by a sector ministry. One of the tasks of the institutes is public sector consultancy of the ministry, for instance counselling and research to inform political and administrative decisions.
National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA)
National Research Centre for the Working Environment (NFA) is a government research institute that conducts research in the area of working environments. (See section 1.6)
NFA tasks are research and public sector counselling regarding (list not complete):
- Psychological working environment
- Physical work load
- Industrial injuries
- Chemical work environment
NFA also conducts research on young people and newly employed people, for instance:
- Youth health and safety groups: Process evaluation from an intervention in Danish supermarkets, 2020
- Precarious work among young Danish employees – A permanent or transitory condition?, 2019
- New forms of work among young people: Implications for the working environment, 2019
National Serum Institute
The National Serum Institute (Statens Serum Institut, SSI) is under the auspices of the Danish Ministry of Health. The main duty of SSI is to ensure preparedness against infectious diseases and biological threats as well as the control of congenital disorders. Furthermore, SSI is one of Denmark’s largest research institutions in the health sector. SSI conducts research within the following areas:
One example is the research programme Better Health in Generations (Bedre sundhed i generationer), which also includes research on young people’s health, diet and exercise habits.
Furthermore, in 2007 a number of government research institutes and universities merged. As a consequence of the reform, the universities are obliged to conduct research-based consultancy work for payment. The research-based consultancy may be:
- Counselling in connection with bills and policy formulation
- Research in a specific field.
The consultancy is laid down in a four-year agreement between the university and the sector ministry. In the agreement, the activities and financing are determined. The universities are obliged to publish the agreements on research-based consultancy on their websites.
Currently, only one agreement on research-based consultancy is related to youth research, which is the agreement between the Ministry of Health and the University of Southern Denmark/the National Institute of Public Health.
The National Institute of Public Health (Statens Institut for Folkesundhed) is a former government research institute that has now merged with the University of Southern Denmark. The institute is responsible for the national population surveys on health. The institute conducts research on the following areas related to public health (list not complete):
- Alcohol and smoking
- Mental health
- Health inequalities
- Chronic disease
- Physical activity
- Children and adolescents
There is no national definition of evidence-based youth policy. However, several ministries and agencies refer to knowledge-based solutions, data and evidence in their internal management strategies, which is evident from the following examples:
The Danish Agency for Labour Market and Recruitment (STAR): In its vision, STAR describes how its work is embedded in evidence-based knowledge on what works. Furthermore, STAR develops and communicates new knowledge about the labour market, employment measures and social assistance by conducting reviews, projects, analyses, etc. The knowledge strengthens the minister’s and the parliament’s basis for decisions and ensures that policies, rules and measures have the intended effects.
The National Board of Social Services: In the mission of the National Board of Social Services, the board states that it actively contributes to an evidence-based social policy and efficient social measures that make a difference for citizens and society.
In the visions of the board, the board states: ‘We qualify social policy and social measures in Denmark’. The board further elaborates that the National Board of Social Services:
- makes it possible to base social policy on solid knowledge on what works, how it works and its costs.
- identifies, develops and documents best practice in cooperation with stakeholders and works to ensure that a larger part of social policy is evidence-based.
- supports a knowledge- and data-based social practice by ensuring easy access to knowledge on best practice, efficient methods and relevant data.
The Danish Agency for IT and Learning (STIL): The management in the Agency for IT and Learning works to use knowledge and to develop new solutions based on data. The agency management seeks new knowledge among its stakeholders, both nationally and internationally.
Ministry of Higher Education and Science: In the ministry strategy 2016-2020, the ministry has developed a range of targets, and one of them is entitled ‘Analysis, knowledge and action’. In the elaboration of the target, the ministry states that it works analytically and evidence-based. Furthermore, in the ministry values, the ministry states that it develops solutions based on facts and the newest knowledge, as well as developing and communicating new knowledge.
Furthermore, several ministries have established analytical units close to the top management in the ministries or in the agencies. This tendency is evidence of the ministries’ strategic prioritisation of the use of research-based knowledge in policy-making and indicates an attempt to facilitate a closer connection b
A research project carried out in the Danish Council for Research and Innovation policy from 2014-2016 shows that evidence-based policymaking is a strategic focus area in all of the ministries, continually gaining momentum and practical significance in policy-making processes. The project concludes that there is room for improvement, since for instance no ministries have developed a coherent, explicit strategy on how to use research-based evidence in policy development.
Furthermore, the study shows that the ministries primarily use research-based knowledge in long-term policy-making. In the short term and on a day-to-day basis, time and resource constraints limit the ministries’ possibility to review and apply research-based evidence in the development of new policies.
With regard to the ministries’ usage of research-based knowledge, the study shows that knowledge transfer from research environments to the political processes in the ministries is often guided by one of two mechanisms, i.e. reactive knowledge transfer or proactive knowledge transfer. Reactive knowledge transfer often entails the ad hoc use of research-based knowledge in policy-making processes as a result of new topics emerging more or less suddenly on the political agenda, whereas proactive knowledge transfer is often initiated by the ministries themselves to meet the long-term need for evidence, e.g. in connection with preparations for reform processes or flagship projects.
The projects indicate that many different forms of interaction guide the knowledge transfer between the ministries and relevant research environments, including for instance:
- Collaborative research and research partnerships
- Academic consulting in councils or standing committees in the ministries
- Purchase of research via public procurement
- Conferences and networks
Research-based public sector consultancy by the universities and the two government research institutes mentioned above are examples of institutionalised cooperation.
Furthermore, two research institutions are regulated by law and are relevant for youth research:
The Danish Center for Social Science Research (VIVE) was established on 1 July 2017 following a merger between the Danish National Centre for Social Research (SFI) and the Danish Institute for Local and Regional Government Research (KORA). VIVE is an independent analysis and research centre working within all major welfare fields. The purpose of VIVE is to contribute to the development of the welfare society by improving the knowledge on the development of the welfare society, the well-being of the population and the structure of the public sector. Furthermore, the purpose of VIVE is to improve the basis for political decisions.
VIVE must counsel public authorities and distribute its research to relevant public and private bodies.
The Danish Evaluation Institute (EVA)
The Danish Evaluation Institute (EVA) is an independent state institution with the objective of developing teaching, learning and education in Denmark.
EVA works within the wide field of the Danish educational system and contributes to evaluate and develop:
- day-care for children
- primary and secondary school
- upper secondary school
- higher educational institutions
- education programmes for adults
EVA cooperates with the minister of education, other public authorities and education institutions.
The task of EVA is to collect knowledge and to develop and reform methods for evaluations and quality development.
Policy themes covered by research
Several sector ministries manage Danish youth policy, and therefore a wide range of themes are included in Danish youth policy: education, labour market entry, socially marginalised children and young people, health and well-being, etc. Because of the sectoral nature of Danish youth policy, it is hard to give a brief overview of commissioned scientific research in youth policy.
Below are examples of commissioned research and evaluations by relevant ministries in 2020:
The Ministry of Children and Education
Primary and lower secondary education:
- Room for Difference – Evaluation of the Efforts in the Project: The Mastering of School and Everyday Life (Plads til forskellighed - Evaluering af indsatsen i satspuljeprojektet Mestring af skoledag og hverdagsliv)
- Evaluation of economic incentives to raise the educational levels of slow learners (Evaluering af skolepuljen - 2. midtvejsrapport)
- Flexible planning of the school day (Fleksibel tilrettelæggelse af skoledagen - Evaluering af rammeforsøg i folkeskolen)
- Recommendations regarding simplifying the individual student plan (Anbefalinger om forenkling af elevplanen i folkeskolen - Rådgivningsgruppen for forenkling af elevplanen i folkeskolen)
- Individual student plans in the Danish public school system (Elevplaner i folkeskolen - Bidrag til videns- og analysegrundlag for Rådgivningsgruppen for en forenklet elevplan)
- Progress memo: Evaluation (Statusnotat: Evaluering og følgeforskning)
- A trial regarding technology comprehension in mandatory courses in primary school (Midtvejsevaluering - Forsøg med teknologiforståelse i folkeskolen obligatoriske undervisning)
- Characteristics in high and low performing schools (Analyse af karakteristika ved højt- og lavtpræsterende skoler)
- Midway evaluation of the applicability of IT in vocational education programmes (Midtvvejsevaluering af center for anvendelse af IT)
- Final evaluation – trial regarding exemptions from curricula requirements at VET institutions (Rammeforsøg på EUD - Slutevaluering)
- Report on the basic course (VET) three years after the reform (Rapport om grundforløb på erhvervsuddannelser tre år efter reformen)
- Good practice for securing that pupils attending a vocational education programme proceed to the main course (VET). (Inspirationskatalog: God praksis for at få merkantile EUX-elever videre i hovedforløbet
- The simplification of legislation regarding vocational education programmes (Forenkling af erhvervsuddannelsernes beskrivelsessystem)
General upper secondary education programmes
- Report on the effects of the general upper secondary school reform (Gymnasiereformens følgeforskningsprogram 4. Delrapport)
- Inspection of the development of institutions within the educational sector (Eftersyn af institutionsudviklingen på undervisningsområdet)
- Report on the effects of a gradeless first year of secondary upper school (Forsøg med karakterfri 1.g)
- New findings on the correlation between management and educators (Ny viden om Faglig Pædagogisk Ledelse som grundlag for at ledelse og lærere udvikler en fælles viden om undervisningen)
Preparatory education/special needs
- Evaluation of the strengthening of the education readiness and Danish proficiency regarding less resourceful people of Greenlandic descent (Evaluering af puljen Parat til læring og undervisning)
- Report: Pupils returning from special education programmes to ordinary education programmes and their transition to upper secondary education programmes (Rapport: Tilbageførte elever og overgang til ungdomsuddannelse)
- Readiness and efforts regarding pupils not deemed ready for uper secondary eduation (Uddannelsesparathed og indsatser for ikke-parate elever i grundskolen)
- Turbo programme to improve the readiness for upper secondary education (turboforløb til ikke-uddannelsesparate elever i-8-klasse)
Social inclusion in education
- Evaluation of anti-bullying legislation and the national board of appeal against bullying (Evaluering af antimobbebestemmelser og Den Nationale Klageinstans mod Mobning)
- PISA 2018 focusing on pupils with an immigrant background (PISA Etnisk 2018 - PISA 2018 med fokus på elever med indvandrerbaggrund)
- Study of pedagogical, psychological counceling PPR in Danish municipalities (Undersøgelse af kommunernes pædagogiskpsykologiske rådgivning (PPR))
- Main report on the costs of the youth education sector (Hovedrapport: Omkostningsanalyse af ungdomsuddannelsesområdet 2019)
Ministry of Employment
- Report on the effect of spare time job ambassadors on youths from socio-economically disadvantaged housing areas (Puljen Fritidsjobambassadører til unge fra udsatte boligområder)
- Evaluation of the 2018 reading comprehension support project (Evaluering af læsestøtteprojektet 2018)
- Evaluation of the usage of bridging courses (Evaluering af puljen udbredelse af brobygning)
- Evaluation of the effects of bridging courses (Effektevaluering af brobygning til uddannelse)
- Analysis of the employment efforts regarding youths dependent on welfare benefits (Analyse af beskæftigelsesindsatsen for unge i kontanthjælpssystemet)
Ministry of Health /Danish Health Authority
- Tobacco, behavior and legislation (§RØG – En undersøgelse af tobak, adfærd og regler)
- The usage of smokeless tobacco among youths (Tal om unges brug af røgfri tobak)
- The European School Survey on Alcohol and Other Drugs (Den Europæiske Rusmiddelundersøgelse (ESPAD) 2019)
- Evaluation of the But Why campaign in 2019 (Evaluering af But why kampagnen 2019)
- The effects of digital media on social relations, communities and stress among children and youths (Digital mediebrugs betydning for sociale relationer, fællesskaber og stress blandt børn og unge)
- The correlation between screen time, physical activity and being stationary among children (Sammenhængen mellem skærmtid og fysisk aktivitet og stillesiddende tid hos børn)
The national Health Profile 2017 established that a large proportion of the Danish population suffer from stress or stress-related illnesses. Young people and especially young women are experiencing problems with mental health, such as stress. Furthermore, the number of young people with depression and anxiety is rising. See chapter 7.
The declaration of intent entitled “Fair direction for Denmark” (Retfærdig retning for Danmark), which is the political understanding agreed by the Social Democratic minority government and its three supporting parties, emphasises young people’s mental issues as one of modern society’s main challenges. The government will present an action plan for the psychiatric system and a new unit has also been established in the Ministry of Higher Education and Science . The unit will be responsible for collecting and communicating knowledge about young people’s well-being and policy development.
As a consequence of young people’s mental health issues, the Ministry of Higher Education and Science has included mental health questions in the national survey EducationZoom. See section 6.10.
Statistics Denmark is the central authority for Danish statistics. Statistics Denmark is an independent state institution with its own board. The board establishes a working programme and public authorities and institutions must supply such information as they possess when called upon to do so by Statistics Denmark.
- collects, processes, and publishes statistical information on social and economic conditions, potentially in collaboration with municipal authorities and other statistical bodies.
- will supervise or assist in the establishment and utilisation of central public registers that serve to perform administrative duties for the public sector, business and industry and that can be used for statistical purposes and may assist committees and commissions in statistical matters.
- can prepare statistical analyses and forecasts.
Statistics Denmark provides regular statistics on:
- Population and elections
- Labour, income, and wealth
- Living conditions
- Education and knowledge
- Culture and national church
Often it is possible to break down the statistics by age, gender, and geography.
Statistics specifically targeting young people (list not complete):
- Socially marginalised children and young people
- Municipal expenses
- Academic level
- Living conditions
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of media and museums
The Ministry of Health and the Danish Health Authority administer a range of health profiles that publish data on young people’s health conditions. See section 7.1.
Other data and analysis
Sector ministries collect their own data and statistics. The sector ministries use the data to analyse and evaluate measures and to report on specific targets set by the ministers or the government.
The Ministry of Higher Education and Science
Data from higher educations are collected in the ministry’s data warehouse. The following data is available (list not complete):
- Applications and intake
- EducationZoom (digital tool that compares educations in a range of parameters. (See section 3.4)
- Student influx, duration of study, completion of study
- Drop-out rate and change of study
- State education grant
- EU citizens with state education grant
- International mobility
- continuing and further education and training
Each year the Higher Education and Science Report is published with analyses, data and statistics from the ministry.
The Ministry of Children and Education
The Ministry of Children and Education has several statistical databases, for instance:
The Data Warehouse (Datavarehuset): The Data Warehouse contains data from primary and lower secondary education (folkeskole), general upper secondary, and VET programmes. Institutions, ministries, regions, municipalities, and the public have access to the database.
Databanken: The data bank contains data across the Danish education system, from primary school to PhD level. The data bank publishes regular reports on specific key performance indicators.
The Youth Database: The Youth Database is an administrative tool for youth guidance centres (UU) and job centres. The database registers the activities in education and employment of young people in the 15-24-year age group. Furthermore, the database provides statistics on young people in the 15-29-year age group to the Ministry of Employment.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Senior Citizens
The National Board of Social Services administers a range of databases (list not complete):
- The Social Offer Portal (Tilbudsportalen): A portal with all the regional, municipal, and private social offers/measures
- Professional Quality Information (Faglige kvalitetsoplysninger): collects data on different aspects of public day-care institutions
- Parent Management Training: collects data on the treatment in the parent training programme
- The Data Bank is a collection of statistics from reporting in the social area.
The annual Social Policy Report contains statistical data and analysis on measures, effects, costs etc. in the social area.
Socialpolitisk redegørelse 2019 (social policy report)
The Ministry of Employment
Employment Effort (Jobindsats) is a public data bank with key performance indicators in labour market policies.
Jobindsats.dk includes statistical measurements of central labour market measures and benefits to citizens. These include:
- Unemployment benefits (dagpenge)
- Social benefits
- Early retirement pensions and early pensions
- General employment indicators:
- Employment per se
- Unemployment indicators
- Foreign labour working in Denmark
- The minister’s annual goals for active labour market policy
- Monitoring systems
The statistics published by jobindsats.dk also include key indicators of recent reforms of the labour market, the reform of the disability pension, the flexi-job scheme, and the cash benefit (kontanthjælp) reform.
The Ministry of Health
The Danish Health Authority publishes a range of statistical data:
- The use of force in psychiatric treatment
- Statistics on alcohol consumption
- Annual report on drugs
- Health Quality (Sundhedskvalitet) provides an overview of quality and services in the Danish healthcare system
The National Institute of Public Health (Statens Institut for Folkesundhed) is responsible for the following surveys:
- the National Health Profile Database
- the National Representative Health and Morbidity Surveys (SUSY)
- the School Children’s Survey (HBSC)
- the Population Survey in Greenland
Moreover, the National Institute of Public Health has conducted other individual surveys, e.g. among secondary and vocational school students (Youth Profile 2014), in specific population groups, e.g. among socially vulnerable people (SUSY‑udsat), and among people with a heart disease (Livet med en hjertesygdom [Life with a heart disease], 2015).
There is no specific line of funding for research in the youth field.
The monitoring and evaluation of policy reforms are part of the ministerial budgets.