1.6 Evidence-based youth policy
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According to the Youth Act, the State Youth Council which is an advisory body attached to the Ministry of Education and Culture, is obliged to produce up-to-date information regarding young people and their living conditions.
In practice, the State Youth Council publishes surveys and studies of young people in cooperation with the Finnish Youth Research Society and other research actors. It has also developed a set of youth indicators that it follows and updates. This data is taken into consideration in different levels of youth policy making. For instance, the goals and objectives of the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme are widely based on evidence from this data and from other studies.
According to the Youth Act, the coordinating body for cross-sectoral cooperation at local level set by local government is obliged to gather information on young people's growth and living conditions. Based on this data they should evaluate the situation of young people to support and influence local level policy making and planning. For instance, this means that the City of Helsinki, for example, regularly publishes a welfare plan for children and youth.
There is no clear definition of evidence-based youth policy in Finland. However, as the above examples show that evidence-based youth policy is predominantly understood as policy making which takes into account the analysis of the wellbeing and living conditions of young people and the challenges that they experience.
Presented here are two examples of institutionalised cooperative mechanisms between policy-making and youth research. At the level of the national parliament and ministries, the Strategic Research Council established within the Finnish Academy offers funding for studies relevant to actual policymaking. Despite the fact that the funding instrument is mainly targeted at all policy fields, several youth research-related institutions such as the Finnish Youth Research Network, Juvenia; the Youth Research and Development Centre of South -Eastern Finland, the University of Applied Sciences and University of Tampere have recently got funding for youth causes, youth work and youth policy-related studies.
Another very concrete example of cooperation between policymaking and research is the way the content of the National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme is established. The programme has its basis in the situational picture of the conditions in which young people live and grow, and how they feel about their life. On the other hand, there needs to be some follow-up indicators which allow monitoring the success of the policy implementation. The State Youth Council maintains the set of indicators. Part of this process is taken on by the Finnish Youth Research Network, which is funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture for realising a yearly study called the Youth Barometer, which in turn determines some of those needful indicators, amongst other things. Additionally, the results of the School Health Promotion Study realised by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare are important for the indicator list. The use of the results is put into policy preparation at the national level, while the institute offers result packages also tailored for region, municipality, and educational institute levels for supporting their decision-making.
Several national youth statistics, indicators and reports are collected and published in Finland annually or every second year. Most of the data is available online.
Examples of the national youth statistics
• Youth Barometer, since 1994, annually measures the values and attitudes of young people between 15 and 29 years of age. The Youth Barometer is published by the State Youth Council in cooperation with the Finnish Youth Research Society. In 2021 the theme of the Youth Barometer was "sustainability", in 2020 “public services”, in 2019 “working life”, in 2018 “power, influence and Europeanness”, in 2017 “education", in 2016 “the future”, in 2015 “everyday life management”, in 2014 “equality and discrimination”, in 2013 “participation”, and in 2012 “intergenerational relationships”.
• The School Health Promotion Study, since 1996, monitors the health and well-being of young people between 14 and 20. The aim of the study is to strengthen the planning and evaluation of health promotion activities at school, municipal, and national levels. The study is carried out every second year by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
• Sotkanet.fi Statistics also by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is an information service and indicator bank that offers key population welfare and health data from 1990 onwards. It has a special focus on children, young people, and families. Additionally, it also provides international comparisons of the data.
• Youth work statistics is a portal with national statistics on municipal youth work, youth workshops and outreach youth work. One of offices of the Regional State Administrative Agencies administers the portal. The portal has been developed in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Culture.
• The Research Foundation for Studies and Education (Otus) (the page is mainly in Finnish but includes a description of the organisation in English) conducts annually a national Student Barometer which is a survey concerning student's everyday life, education, and values.
• Amisbarometri.fi (VET Student Survey) is a survey carried out every second year in the vocational institutions by the National Union of Vocational Students in Finland (SAKKI ry) and the Research Foundation for Studies and Education Otus. It is supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Finnish National Agency for Education.
• The Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD) provides access to a wide range of digital research data for learning, teaching, and research purposes. The youth data covers such topics as information society, consumption, participation, health and sports, and working life.
Other data on the situation of young people
The `Youth Leisure Time Surveys´ are carried out every three years since 2009 and `Living conditions of young people´ conducted every second year since 2001 in co-operation between the Ministry of Culture and Education, Finnish Youth Research Network, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, and State Youth Council. See also the annual report of the Ombudsman for Children.
The Ministry of Education and Culture allocates annually funding from the state's youth budget to youth research. The funding is based on annually held negotiations and the results-based management of the Ministry of Education and Culture. The state funding for youth research is based on the Youth Act which states that the state budget may include appropriations for research on youth work and youth policy. Youth research is also subject to funding under the more general “research and education” category of the government budget. More information, see Youth Wiki/Finland 1.7 Funding Youth Policy. On the other hand, several universities and universities of applied sciences have youth work and youth policy-related study and research programmes which have their own institutional level funding bases also in the state budget.