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EACEA National Policies Platform


4. Social Inclusion

4.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Main challenges to social inclusion
  2. Main concepts

Main challenges to social inclusion


Specific data related to main challenges of youth social inclusion can be found in Youth Monitoring Dashboard, a policy making support tool of visualised data by Statistics Estonia. It features the rates of absolute poverty by age group; youth unemployment; shares of NEET youth and youth with disabilities; offences committed by young people etc.


At national level strategic documents, specific focus on youth is taken by the Youth Sector Development Plan 2021-2035 (Noortevaldkonna arengukava 2021-2035). There are four strategic objectives defined, each of them with references to specific challenges also in relation to the social inclusion, f.ex:

  • to recognise youth as impetus for societal change and development, ensuring perspectives for self-development, self-realisation and entrepreneurship for everyone, with specific attention to youth with fewer opportunities;
  • to safeguard the rights and participation of young people with specific approaches and tools for youth with fewer opportunites and risk backgrounds;
  •  to guarantee the access to quality youth work services reducing the regional disparities and moving barriers for young people with special needs;
  • to strengthen the social security of youth by fostering the early stage prevention, support to different risk groups (like young people not involved in education, training or work and those with health challenges) and better awareness in society at large with the aim to fight stigmatisation.


In addition, more overarching views on social inclusion are elaborated in:


·      „Estonia 2035“ Strategy and Action Plan (Strateegia „Eesti 2035“, „Eesti 2035“ Tegevuskava)

·      Welfare Development Plan 2016-2023 (Heaolu arengukava 2016-2023);

·      Draft Welfare Development Plan 2023-2030 (Heaolu arengukava 2023-2030 Koostamise ettepanek)(tbc).


The “Estonia 2035” strategy, approved by the Government of Estonia in 2021, sets out five long-term strategic goals related to people, society, economy, living environment and governance and puts forward nine important development needs in relation to these goals. The strategy emphasises that children and youth deserve special attention and supportive environments related to different challenges, f.ex:

  • demographic changes and the need to establish sustainable population policies;
  • socio-economic inequalities in different regions; 
  • equal access to education, work and public services. 


The Welfare Development Plan 2016-2023, adopted by the Government of Estonia in 2016, prepared by the Ministry of Social Affairs, highlights the following as the most important areas that need development and support for inclusion of young people: 

  • participation in working life
  • economic coping of people
  • social services and protection
  • equality
  • health


The Draft Welfare Development Plan 2023-2030 (Heaolu arengukava 2023-2030 Koostamise ettepanek)(adoption in progress) aimed at replacing the former Strategy of Children and Families 2012-2020 (Laste ja perede arengukava 2012-2020), highlights also the challenges in relation to support services provided to children, youth and their families and aims at reforming the support system in order to guarantee that help and support is available at the earliest possible stage, with coordinated efforts from all the needed experts (child welfare, education, medicine etc). 


Continuous efforts are targeted at taking stock of and reducing the COVID-19 crisis impacts on youth population, most notably in relation to mental health and access to employment and education. F.ex the key findings of the Study „COVID-19 Impact on the need for labour force and skills“ confirm the raise in youth unemployment and enlarged vulnerability in this respect. 


Related to health, The Green Paper on Mental Health (Vaimse tervise roheline raamat), adopted in 2021, highlights that during the COVID crisis period, 49% of young people at the age of 15-24 years have felt stress that is notably higher than among other age groups. Also, the majority of mental health challenges appear during childhood or young adolescence, in 50% of cases before the age of 14 years and in 75% of cases before the age of 24 years. 

Children and youth are strongly influenced by the factors of their social environment and accumulated risk factors have demonstrated to signifcantly increase the likelihood of health challenges, f. ex the risk for alcohol and drug abuse and depression raises up to 4-12 times for children and youth experiencing 4 or more different risk factors. Thus the coherency and cooperation between different services and policy fields is of great importance (The Green Paper on Mental Health (Vaimse tervise roheline raamat)

Main concepts

The approaches and principles concerned with social inclusion and welfare are defined in 2016 at the Government level in the document the Welfare Development Plan 2016-2023 arise from the principles of a social and welfare state, the framework of fundamental and social rights, and social protection principles. On the one hand, the principle of a social state is ensuring that the strengthening of the state’s economic development and competitive ability takes into account the needs of different social groups. For that purpose, equal opportunities must be supported and created for the population groups that would not be able to secure their livelihood and welfare in the conditions of the competition of the market economy. On the other hand, the adherence to the principle of a social state is a premise for the state's economic development and competitive ability, as it prevents and reduces the exclusion of parts of the population from the social and economic life. The broader view of the welfare of people and society is understood as affected by all aspects of life and the policies that concern them. The solutions are visioned in accordance with the general shift of welfare state policies: transferring from the policy that compensates social risks and repairs their consequences to the policy that empowers and prepares people to cope with the risks. In addition to traditional social protection, increasing people's self-sufficiency and their social and professional activity has become more and more important. Therefore, the social and labor market policies are treated in the welfare policy as investments that support people’s participation in society and economy, and thus, provide an important contribution to the development of society and economy.

Some of the most important concepts are defined as the following:

  • Prevention refers to the need to primarily focus on the prevention of socials risks and the realization of their consequences, which will prevent the progression and accumulation of the problems, and overall, make solving them more time- and resource-efficient.
  • Shared responsibility means that the person themselves and their family bear primary responsibility for securing their welfare, coping, and a decent life. State and local authorities provide support in situations where a person or a family is not able to secure their livelihood on their own. The provision of help is also based on the shared responsibility principle, as it encourages people’s self-responsibility and prevents learned helplessness and dependency on help.
  • Ensuring human dignity is the central objective for the protection of social rights. Thereby, human dignity means both a decent treatment and a decent life.
  • A comprehensive approach to human needs means that a person’s needs are assessed as comprehensively as possible and the assessment is used in designing and implementing the measures by combining and connecting, if necessary, benefits, grants, and services.
  • Equal treatment is based on the idea of equality among people and the prohibition of discrimination as the central principle of a social state, which must be taken into account in granting rights, their implementation, and the creation of equal opportunities. The principle of equal treatment means considering the needs of all people, not the uniform treatment of all people.