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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


10. Youth work

10.3 Support to youth work

On this page
  1. Policy legal framework
  2. Funding
  3. Cooperation

Policy/legal framework

In Estonia, the youth field consists of both youth work and youth policy, and therefore, most of the legislation covers both the topics at once. The main top-level policies and regulations on youth work are as following:

The Youth Work Act sets also the general definitions and the target groups of youth work. The main target group of youth work, in general, is a young person between 7 and 26 years of age. The youth field programme for the years 2020-2023 (Noortevaldkonna programm 2020-2023) targets more specifically the young people in the risk of exclusion.

The main structures of youth work that provide different youth work activities are:

  • Youth center – youth work establishment that is managed by the local municipalities or non-governmental organizations. A youth center has the widest range of youth work services and is the main youth work executor on the local level. Youth centers might act in different forms, but most of the centers use the open youth work method. In 2019, there were 281 youth centers in Estonia.
  • Hobby school – an educational institution that acts in the field of youth work and creates the conditions for developing young people in different fields of hobby education. See more in the Glossary. In the academic year 2019/2020, there were 782 hobby schools in Estonia.
  • Youth association – non-profitable organization, in which at least two-thirds of the members are young people and which objective covers the organization and performance of youth work.
  • Youth work camp – a workplace project that supports the competitiveness of young people combining work and youth work opportunities, through the development of young people’s skills and knowledge. See more in the Glossary. In 2019, though the programmes of Work Summer and Youth Working Camps altogether 54 work camp organizers were supported and 4 439 young people participated in the activities.
  • Youth permanent and project camps – school holiday camps, which last at least six 24-hour periods. See more in the Glossary. In 2020, there were 75 camp organizers supported by the state and more than 27 000 young people participate in the activities.
  • Youth work association – non-profit association, a union of non-profit associations or a foundation the objective of which is the integration of youth workers, youth work agencies or other exercisers and organizers of youth work and representation of their interests.
  • Youth council – an advisory participation council consisting of young people, which operates in a rural municipality or city council. In 2019, 89 different youth councils were acting.
  • Youth work in schools – youth work that is done in formal education and vocational education schools that supports the school’s curricula’ goals, is based on extracurricular activities and is organized by school youth workers, pupils unions and activity leaders. Each year, more than 70 000 young people participate in formal education hobby activities (see more in the Glossary).

The Youth Work Act defines youth permanent and project camps, youth work associations, youth councils, youth associations, and mentions the financing of hobby education and recreational activities.


There is a specific budget for youth policy and youth work development on the national level, see more in Chapter 1.7. As youth policy and youth work are a part of the youth field, then the funding goes to the youth field, not specifically to youth work.

As local municipalities organize youth work, the funding for it comes mainly from the municipal budgets. No certain amounts can be brought out, because the municipalities decide, which amounts are targeted to youth work. Extra funding for the development of youth work services is given to local municipalities through the ESF co-financed programme “Inclusion of young people at risk of exclusion and improving the employability of young people” (Tõrjutusriskis noorte kaasamine ja noorte tööhõivevalmiduse parandamine). The activity is called cooperation groups of local municipalities. For 2019, the activity was funded with 384 000 euros.

Starting from 2017, additional support for hobby education and hobby activities is given to local municipalities and this is funded by the state budget. The aim of the support is to improve the accessibility and diversity of systematic and supervised hobby education and recreational activities for 7- to 19-year-old young persons with the aim of increasing their opportunities for the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and attitudes relating to the chosen hobby. This support measure is regulated in the Youth Work Act. The amount of funding was 14.3 million euros for 2019. In order to improve the quality of hobby fields, there is funding directed to the umbrella organizations. The funding for 2018 was 464 449 euros.

There are different funding measures directed to the organization of youth work directly to the organizations, for example:

  • youth camps – funding comes from the gambling taxes, 2020 amount 1.4 million euros, support enabling young people to participate in camp activities;
  • work camps – funding comes from the gambling taxes, 2020 amount 240 400 euros, support enabling young people to participate in work camp activities, and from the ESF funding from activity “Work Summer”, amount 96 667 euros, support enabling to organize work camps in municipalities that have no work camps in place;
  • hobby schools – funding comes from the gambling taxes, 2020 amount 260 000 euros, support for hobby schools to buy inventory;
  • youth centers – funding comes from the state budget, 2019 amount 256 000, support for youth centers to buy inventory.

Youth organizations have also a specific funding measure, which has a ministerial-level regulation for the conditions. The amount for 2018 was 489 000 euros. The aim of this measure is to support the activities of youth organizations. See more in Chapter 5.6.


Cross-sectorial cooperation is an overall system of policy planning and delivery in Estonia in the field of youth. See more in Chapter 1.5. Therefore, most of the youth work organizations cooperate with each other, but in some cases, there are some measures that encourage youth work organizations to cooperate with each other more.

Most of the measures or mechanisms that support cooperation between different youth work stakeholders are usually connected with funding, as there are different funding schemes that support cooperation between different organizations in the field of youth. For example, the funding measure for youth centers described in the section Funding has a section for smart projects, where the aim is to work out new IT solutions for open youth work and do that in cooperation with other youth work stakeholders. The same goes for the funding measure for hobby schools – projects aim to integrate non-formal and formal education.

The financial support to local municipalities in order to develop youth work services that are also described in the section Funding makes youth work stakeholders cooperate with each other, as in one cooperation group there are several municipalities and they have to create a common activity plan.

In Estonia, there is Youth Monitor (Noorteseire) that should promote the cooperation between researchers, policymakers and practitioners in the youth field. The annual youth monitor yearbooks give good input to the policymakers in different fields that concern young people. See more in Chapter 1.6.

Starting from 2019, the Ministry of Education and Research has gone over to a new system of strategic partnership – in each field, there will be picked out partners, who will receive activity support for the next three years.

The strategic partners for 2019-2021 in the field of youth are as following:

  1. Eesti Gaidide Liit (Estonian Association of Girl Guides)
  2. Eesti Koolispordi Liit (Estonian School Sports Union)
  3. Eesti Kunstikoolide Liit (Estonian Art Schools Union)
  4. Eesti Muusikakoolide Liit (Estonian Music Schools Union)
  5. Eesti Noorsootöötajate Kogu (Estonian Association of Youth Workers)
  6. Eesti Noorteühenduste Liit (Estonian Youth Council)
  7. Eesti Skautide Ühing (Estonian Scout Movement)
  8. Eesti Tantsuhuvihariduse Liit (Estonian Dance Hobby Education Union)
  9. Eesti Teadushuvihariduse Liit (Estonian STEM Education Union)
  10. Eesti Väitlusselts (Estonian Debate Society)
  11. Eesti Õpilasesinduste Liit (Federation of Estonian Pupil Unions)
  12. Eesti Üliõpilaskondade Liit (Federation of Estonian Student Unions)
  13. Huvikoolide Liit (Hobby Schools Union)
  14. Eesti Avatud Noortekeskuste Ühendus (Association of Estonian Open Youth Centres)
  15. Noorteühendus ELO (Youth Association ELO)
  16. Noorteühing Eesti 4H (Youth Association Estonia 4H)
  17. Noorteühing TORE (Youth Association TORE)

The strategic partnership is funded from the youth field programme for 1.1 million euros and from the gambling taxes for 1.2 million euros. During the negotiations with strategic partners, there are specific cooperation activities agreed on.