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Germany

Germany

1. Youth Policy Governance

1.4 Youth policy decision-making

On this page
  1. Structure of Decision-making
  2. Main Themes
  3. The National Agency for Youth
  4. Policy monitoring and evaluation

Structure of Decision-making

Youth policy matters in Germany are handled both across multiple departments and between different levels of government under the federal structure (> Section 1.2. National youth law). This work is based on an understanding of youth policy as cross-sectoral policy oriented to the interests and needs of young people (Child and Youth Welfare Association [Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, AGJ] Youth Policy 2020). Additionally, the general consensus is that all forms of social policy are in effect youth policy (AGJ Youth Policy 2020) and virtually all policy areas affect young people and youth policy matters in one way or another.

At federal (Bund) level, responsibilities are thus spread horizontally across the different departments according to their area of activity. Despite this, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) oversees all youth policy and is the federal government contact for youth policy matters. As such, BMFSFJ is responsible for the Child and Youth Report (Jugendbericht) (> Section 1.6. Evidence-based youth policy), the funding initiatives Federal Child and Youth Plan (Kinder- und Jugendplan, KJP) and Live Democracy! (Demokratie Leben!) (> Section 1.7. Funding youth policy), and institutional – i.e. long-term – funding for federal youth policy organisations.

BMFSFJ plays a special role in youth policy with its Committee on Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Ausschuss für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend) in the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag). The Committee guides and monitors BMFSFJ as the government's parliamentary body and is responsible for youth matters. One of its sub-committees is the Children's Commission (Kommission zur Wahrnehmung der Bedürfnisse von Kindern, KiKo). Part of the Children's Commission's role is to lobby on behalf of children and young people. On the German Parliament's (Deutscher Bundestag) website, the Children's Commission describes itself as a watchdog for children's interests. Children in this context means all young people under the age of 18. The Commission works both within and outside of parliament to promote the interests of children and young people and set a clear course for youth policy. It sees itself as a partner and promoter of associations, organisations and institutions working in the interests of children and young people.

Key areas of youth policy during the 19th parliamentary term of the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag) are found in the parliamentary work plan (Arbeitsplan). They include digitalisation, its opportunities and risks for children and young people; participation; child protection; and child and youth poverty.

Responsibilities are spread between the federal, regional (Länder) and local levels in line with the basic distribution of competences specified in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz, GG) and the division of tasks specified in the state constitutions (Landesverfassungen). The distribution of responsibilities is very complex – some are held jointly at different levels and others overlap, creating conflict. It is not possible to go into more detail here.

Using the regulations in Book 8 of the German Social Code – Child and Youth Services (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch – Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, SGB VIII) as an example, it is possible to hint at the basic principle of federalism. In line with the principles of the federal division of responsibilities, Section 83 SGB VIII says that the federation is responsible for child and youth services only where the initiated policy and ensuing activities are either of supra-regional significance (e.g. national legislation, assistance with activities and structures on a national level) and/or where they cannot be assisted and/or supported by the federal states (Länder) alone. It is the federation's job to initiate and assist youth services – for example, via pilot projects financed as part of youth-specific federal assistance programmes. In turn, the federal states take the national regulations and adapt them to regional conditions. State acts implementing child and youth services law are the result. Most states have a state youth welfare office (Landesjugendamt) which acts as the oversight and advisory authority for child and youth services organisations (e.g. youth work, residential care), arranges training programmes for people working in child and youth services, sets up state-based funding initiatives, draws up professional standards and thus has a general influence on the structure of child and youth services (see next section). The local authority level handles the specific form of child and youth services as part of local governance. This results in child and youth services with a wide variety of different structures.

A number of bodies advise BMFSFJ on youth matters:

Other federal agencies also assist the federal government with youth policy. Examples include:

  • The Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Minors (Bundesprüfstelle für jugendgefährdende Medien). Its task is to protect children and adolescents from media contents harmful or dangerous to minors. It does this using an indexing procedure. It also offers guidance for parents and child educators on teaching media literacy to children and young people. The Board fulfils the mandate set out in the Protection of Young Persons Act (Jugendschutzgesetz, JuSchG) (see Section 1.2. National youth law).
  • The Federal Office of Family Affairs and Civil Society Functions (Bundesamt für Familie und zivilgesellschaftliche Aufgaben, BAFzA) promotes cooperation between the state, citizens, clubs, associations and foundations to encourage civic commitment and social participation. It looks after the administrative side of the "Live Democracy!" (Demokratie Leben!) programme and pays out grant money for the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst), the Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ) and the Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ).
  • The Independent Commissioner for Child Sexual Abuse Issues (Unabhängiger Beauftragter für Fragen des sexuellen Kindesmissbrauchs) is the office of the federal government for the concerns of victims and survivors and their relatives, for experts from a practical and scientific background, as well as for everyone in politics and society who are engaged in the fight against sexual violence. Its responsibilities include: identifying legal needs for action and research gaps in the field of sexualised violence against children and adolescents; ensuring that the interests of victims and survivors of sexual violence in childhood receive due consideration; and ensuring a systematic and independent inquiry of child sexual abuse in Germany.
  • The Federal Agency for Civic Education (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung). It lobbies for a better understanding of political matters, a keener awareness of what democracy is and furthering participation in politics. It does this via a range of events and learning resources provided specifically for young people.

In the federal states (Länder) the department for youth is usually part of the ministry for social affairs and/or the education ministry. The table below shows the names in German of the top-level ministries representing youth matters in each state.

 

Baden-Württemberg

Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport

Ministerium für Soziales und Integration

Bavaria

Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Familie, Arbeit und Soziales

Berlin

Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie

Brandenburg

Ministerium für Bildung, Jugend und Sport

Bremen

Senatorin für Soziales, Jugend, Integration und Sport

Hamburg

Behörde für Arbeit, Gesundheit, Soziales, Familie und Integration

Hesse

Hessisches Ministerium für Soziales und Integration

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Ministerium für Soziales, Integration und Gleichstellung

Lower Saxony

Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit und Gleichstellung

North Rhine-Westphalia

Ministerium für Kinder, Familie, Flüchtlinge und Integration des Landes Nordrhein Westfalen

Rhineland-Palatinate

Ministerium für Familie, Frauen, Jugend, Integration und Verbraucherschutz

Saarland

Ministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit, Frauen und Familie

Saxony

Sächsisches Staatsministerium für Soziales und Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt

Saxony-Anhalt

Ministerium für Arbeit, Soziales und Integration

Schleswig-Holstein

Ministerium für Soziales, Gesundheit, Jugend, Familie und Senioren

Thuringia

Thüringer Ministerium für Bildung, Jugend und Sport

 

The youth ministries in the federal states (Länder) function as the supreme state-level youth authorities. Section 82 of Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII) says that the supreme state-level youth authority must foster and promote the activities of statutory and non-statutory youth service organisations and ensure their ongoing development. This includes working towards a balanced expansion of facilities and services and helping the local youth welfare authorities (Jugendämter) and state youth welfare offices (Landesjugendämter) to carry out their tasks. Specifically, the state youth authorities draw up the acts implementing SGB VIII and the state youth plans (Landesjugendpläne) promoting child and youth services. The youth ministries in the states support the work of the state youth welfare office and the local youth welfare authorities and are the first point of contact for the state government on youth policy matters.

The federal states try to coordinate their work in all policy areas to ensure the best possible representation of interests at federal level. The same applies to youth policy. The youth ministries in the states coordinate their activities at the Conference of Youth and Family Ministers (Jugend- und Familienministerkonferenz der Länder, JFMK), where they jointly agree on legal, professional and policy issues. The Working group of the highest state youth and family authorities (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Obersten Landesjugend- und Familienbehörden, AGJF) prepares resolutions for the Conference. AGJF coordinates and agrees basic matters of supra-regional importance to ensure the law on child and youth welfare is put into practice appropriately and consistently. It also liaises with the federal government and the European Union as a representative of state interests.

Like the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), the state parliaments have committees and children's commissions dealing with youth matters (e.g. in Bavaria, Thuringia and Hamburg).

In the federal states (Länder), the state youth welfare office (Landesjugendamt) provides supralocal youth services within its catchment area. These services are regulated in Section 85 of Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII). They include advisory services for local youth welfare authorities and non-statutory youth organisations, the protection of children and young people in facilities, training for employees working in youth services, and planning and implementing pilot projects to further develop youth services. To carry out these tasks, the state youth welfare offices are made up of a youth service committee (Jugendhilfeausschuss) and an administration team. The youth service committee handles fundamental issues – recognising non-statutory youth organisations, adopting youth service recommendations and so on – and the administration team provides services related to local youth services. It advises local youth welfare authorities and non-statutory organisations on all youth-related matters and develops training measures and state-specific recommendations. Here, too, Germany's federal structure means the state youth welfare offices are organised differently from state to state:

  • As a local authority (Kommunalbehörde), i.e. one that is supported by all state municipalities (e.g. Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia).
  • As an independent state authority (eigenständige Behörde – in Bavaria the activities of the state youth welfare office are spread across several offices).
  • As an integral part of the competent ministry (e.g. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania).

The state youth welfare offices work together as part of the federal working committee for state youth welfare offices (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Landesjugendämter, BAGLJAE). BAGLJAE aims to establish a minimum professional standard for real-world child and youth services and to help develop this standard into a uniform system of child and youth services nationwide. It also works in the interests of young people and their families. To this end, BAGLJAE draws up joint recommendations for individual fields of work of the state youth welfare offices. It issues statements on draft bills relating to youth services. And it develops recommendations and working aids.

As described previously, the local authorities are responsible for the specific structure of local child and youth services and youth policy. In Germany, the local authority level includes districts (Landkreise), urban districts (kreisfreie Städte) and municipalities within counties (kreisangehörige Gemeinden). Local youth welfare authorities as the municipal structure responsible on the government side are generally found at district and urban district level. Notable exceptions to this are found in North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse, where there are also local youth welfare authorities in cities (kreisangehörige Städte) and municipalities within counties.

The local youth welfare authority has a dual structure: it is made up of an authority and a youth service committee (Jugendhilfeausschuss). The committee members are local parliament delegates, experts and representatives from NGOs. All members participate on equal terms. The local youth welfare authority must implement the rules in Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII) to create the right conditions for young people to grow up and flourish (see Section 1 SGB VIII). In many cases, the local youth welfare authority is part of a larger work unit that is also responsible for social assistance, schools, sport, generations, health, integration and asylum matters.

Communities within counties (kreisangehörige Kommunen) with no local youth welfare authority of their own are in charge of local youth policy, i.e. for their own area. Also, in some federal states (Länder), state regulations give the municipalities responsibilities that would theoretically fall to the local youth welfare authorities and thus the districts. This applies in particular to childcare and youth work.

Non-statutory child and youth organisations, i.e. civil society, play a big role in developing and shaping youth policy in Germany at all levels – national, regional and local. They have the right to participate at these three levels, they are involved in running the youth authorities at local and regional level via the youth service committees (Jugendhilfeausschüsse), and they are a key partner at federal level for developing and shaping youth policy. Non-statutory child and youth organisations are entitled to receive assistance so they can fulfil their function in society. SGB VIII also calls on statutory agencies to make organisational diversity-friendly decisions and to give particular assistance to organisations that promote youth-led activities by young people and young adults (Section 74 (4) SGB VIII).

In this context, non-statutory child and youth organisations is understood to mean the wide variety of civil society actors involved in child and youth services. They include welfare organisations, foundations, youth associations, self-help groups, church organisations and many others besides. Non-statutory child and youth organisations that meet specific requirements, e.g. those with non-profit status, can receive official recognition as non-statutory child and youth organisations (Section 75 SGB VIII). This privileged status means they can be assigned tasks that would otherwise be the responsibility of the statutory agency, such as the local youth welfare authority (Jugendamt).

Youth councils (Jugendringe) make an important contribution. These are state-level alliances of youth associations, which means they are also represented in the youth service committees. There are city (Stadtjugendringe) and district (Kreisjugendringe) youth councils at the local authority level, state (Landesjugendringe) youth councils at regional (Länder) level, and the German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring) at federal level. The youth councils bundle the interests of their member organisations and of children and young people in their region and represent these interests externally (see Seckinger et al. 2012: Jugendringe).

Main Themes

Current youth policy areas being tackled at federal level can be found in the coalition agreement (Koalitionsvertrag) (from 2018). It contains an array of youth policy action areas:

  • Equal access to education for all children and young people.
  • Reduce youth unemployment.
  • Strengthen, support and extend international youth exchanges, e.g. by broadening exchange programmes such as Erasmus+.
  • Strengthen civic commitment and volunteer work by strengthening the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) and youth voluntary schemes. This includes improving access for people with disability and/or disadvantaged individuals, strengthening cultural education for young people and increasing the available resources.
  • Expand child and youth services, including a reform of Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII).
  • Combat anti-Semitism and strengthen a culture of remembrance with the "Young people remember" (Jugend erinnert) programme.
  • Bring the protection of children and young people in the media in line with current challenges, like cyberbullying.
  • Develop a joint Youth Strategy of the federal government.
  • Strengthen youth participation at all federal levels and support additional participation formats.
  • Make initial and continuing vocational training more attractive and provide a wider choice of training tools. This includes continuing to strengthen and expand career guidance programmes and the work of youth employment agencies. More support with vocational training and apprenticeships is to be given to young people and international mobility for trainees improved.
  • Promote more research into paediatric and adolescent medicine and develop a national strategy to reduce obesity, especially amongst children and young people.
  • Ensure suitable accommodation for young asylum seekers.

For more key topics, please see the action areas of the Interministerial Working Group on Youth (Interministerielle Arbeitsgruppe Jugend, IMA Jugend) (> Section 1.3.2. Scope and Contents).

The federal states (Länder) also decide their own youth policy action areas.

For example, Hamburg prioritises promoting all talent, in particular young people from the immigrant community, and helping young people with their personal development. These goals are found in its family and youth state funding plan 2017–2021 (Landesförderplan "Familie und Jugend" 2017-2021).

Another example is Berlin: In July 2019 it passed an act to promote participation and democracy education for young people (Gesetz zur Förderung der Beteiligung und Demokratiebildung junger Menschen),also known as the youth promotion and participation act (Jugendförder- und Beteiligungsgesetz). The act strengthens and underpins child and youth work to improve democracy education and participation for young people.

In 2016, the Saxony state child and youth service committee (Landesjugendhilfeausschuss Sachsens) built on the notion of an Independent Youth Policy by including key areas of regional youth policy grouped into the categories: diversity, family, transitions, time and space, virtual living worlds, and demographic change. These will be implemented in two action areas: training and work, and participation.

A current topic demanding attention at all youth policy levels in Germany is the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on young people and the structures of child and youth services (> Section 1.9 Current debates and reforms).

The National Agency for Youth

The federal structure of Germany means there is no national agency for youth. However, a federal-level agency exists that is active only in the area of international cooperation on youth policy. IJAB – International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany (IJAB – Fachstelle für internationale Jugendarbeit der Bundesrepublik Deutschland) has signed a contract with the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) to provide this service. Under the agreement, IJAB performs specialist functions relating to international cooperation in the field of youth policy and youth information. It advises and assists BMFSFJ with implementing (international) youth policy targets. IJAB also works on behalf of BMFSFJ to support international youth work organisations across the federation and fosters international cooperation on youth policy. IJAB is accountable to BMFSFJ. IJAB holds regular meetings to discuss budgetary matters, work schedules and developments in the field of youth policy cooperation. IJAB has its own budget (see section 17, page 16 of the federal budget [Bundeshaushalt]). In 2020 the budget is 2,937,000 euros. This is around 1.56% higher than in the year before. The 2019 budget (2,892,000 euros) was 5.05% higher than in 2018 (2,753,000 euros).

The work of the state youth welfare offices (Landesjugendämter) at regional (Länder) level and of the local youth welfare authorities (Jugendämter) at local level is similar to that described for a national agency for youth (see Section 1.4.1.) but only extends to the geographic area covered by the respective agency. However, the state youth welfare offices are only responsible for the areas of youth policy that relate to the state-specific act implementing Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII). Other agencies look after other youth policy areas, such as education policy or labour market policy.

SGB VIII makes it the responsibility of the local youth welfare authorities to plan and finance local youth services and therefore fulfil the services and tasks assigned to them in SGB VIII. To this end, the local youth welfare authorities regularly publish local youth plans.

The work of child and youth services is mainly financed from public funds at all state levels, as well as donations and cost contributions from target groups. The local authorities carry most of the financial burden (> Section 1.7.1 How youth policy is funded).

Policy monitoring and evaluation

The law in Germany contains a wide variety of policy monitoring and evaluation mechanisms. Independent bodies at federal and regional (Länder) level, such as research institutes or universities, systematically monitor and evaluate many of the programmes and initiatives that are in place. Their reports are usually available to read online (> Section 1.6 Evidence-based youth policy).

The federal government regularly publishes reports on the situation of young people covering many different perspectives. The most important of these reports is the Child and Youth Report (Kinder- und Jugendbericht). Section 84 of Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII) requires the government to publish a Child and Youth Report in each parliamentary term. The government asks an independent commission to prepare the Child and Youth Report. The reports must describe and analyse the current situation for young people and suggest ways to further develop child and youth services. Every third Child and Youth Report must address the general situation in child and youth services (> Section 1.6. Evidence-based youth policy > Political commitment to evidence-based youth policy).

There are also many other reports on topics affecting young people. Examples include:

The government has been publishing a Family Report on the situation of families in Germany every second electoral term since 1968. An independent expert commission writes the Child and Youth Report on behalf of the government. The Ninth Family Report, published 2020, looks at parenthood in Germany.

The federal government has been publishing a Civic Engagement Report in each electoral term since 2009. It paints a picture of civic engagement activities in Germany. The Third Civic Engagement Report, published 2020, is called "Future of civil society: Youth civic engagement in the digital age" (Zukunft Zivilgesellschaft: Junges Engagement im digitalen Zeitalter) and looks at civic engagement by young people aged 14 to 27. An independent expert commission writes the Civic Engagement Report on behalf of the government.

The federal government has been publishing a Migration Report each year since 2005. The last one was in 2019 and covered the period 2016/2017. It uses statistical data to provide a comprehensive overview of migration events in Germany and annual developments in immigration and emigration. The Report compares the situation of young migrants with that of other age groups. These reports are used as the basis for migration policy and administrative decisions, as well as for other purposes. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) prepares the Migration Report.

In the 2005 coalition agreement (Koalitionsvertrag), the federal government committed to publishing a Gender Equality Report in each parliamentary term. The Third Gender Equality Report, currently being written, looks at what decisions are needed in order to steer developments in the digital economy in the direction of gender equality. An independent expert commission writes the Gender Equality Report on behalf of the government.

The federal government, coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS), has been publishing a Report on Participation in each parliamentary term since 2013. It is prepared with the support of a committee of ten renowned scientists. The Report on Participation describes the circumstances of persons with impairments and disability, and makes action recommendations based on the scientists' feedback. The Report's structure and layout is oriented to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. Some areas of the Report on Participation refer especially to the situation of young people with impairments and disability.

The federal government, coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales, BMAS), has been publishing a national Report on Poverty and Wealth since 2001. It is prepared with the support of a committee of 16 renowned scientists. The reports give insights into the social situation in Germany, aiming to describe poverty and wealth in Germany on the basis of solid data. The government uses the reports to review existing policy and help identify new measures. The reports consistently compare the situation of children and young people to other sections of the population. They summarise research findings, describe key poverty risk factors and show ways to access opportunities to help overcome disadvantages.

The federal government publishes these reports at regular intervals. It also commissions research projects to evaluate state-funded programmes and to investigate specific youth policy and social policy matters. These research projects help the government to make political decisions on programmes and activities. The funding rules of the Federal Child and Youth Plan (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes, KJP) require pilot initiatives of the federal government to be supported by research projects and evidence-based evaluation.

Examples of recent studies and evaluations published include:

The Federal Statistical Office (Statistische Bundesamt, Destatis) provides statistics on young people. It is the federal-level authority responsible for providing and distributing statistical information. This data is available to politicians, the authorities, academia, the private sector and the general public. It is used for many purposes, including setting political priorities.

The federal states (Länder) also use the Child and Youth Reports (Kinder- und Jugendberichte) to steer regional child and youth policy and highlight new areas. Some states have included the publication of these reports in their acts implementing Book 8 of the German Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Achtes Buch, SGB VIII), while others have adopted separate policy decisions.

Like at federal level, research projects and/or regional studies on specific topics support individual funding initiatives in the federal states.

The states also have their own statistical offices (statistische Landesämter) collecting and publishing regional statistics. This includes data on young people and data on child and youth services.

The local authorities regularly use youth services planning (Jugendhilfeplanung) as a tool for steering local youth policy and child and youth services and to ensure planning is in line with needs. The legal basis for local-level youth services planning is found in Sections 79a to 80 SGB VIII.