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Current debates on youth policy at the federal level are shaped largely by the agenda of the current government coalition between the Social Democrats (SPD), Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Christian Social Union (CSU) (> Chapter 1.4. Youth Policy Decision-Making > Main themes). Beyond the themes referenced in the coalition agreement, the Federal Government’s Youth Strategy (Jugendstrategie) outlines additional fields of action. Appropriate attention is given to these on the part of the Federal Government as well as society and policymakers in general, with these, too, shaping the debate at the federal level (> Chapter 1.3. National Youth Strategy > Scope and contents).
Other current policy projects include in particular the reform of Book 8 of the Social Code (Achtes Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII) – Child and Youth Services (Kinder und Jugendhilfe) and the incorporation of children’s rights in Germany’s Basic Law (Grundgesetz).
Reform of Book 8 of the Social Code (Child and Youth Services/Achtes Sozialgesetzbuch – Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, SGB VIII)
The reform (SGB VIII-Reform) focuses on the continued development of child and youth services. Under this process (see > Chapter 1.2. National Youth Law > Scope and contents), Germany’s child and youth services stakeholders discuss the following issues in particular:
- Improved child protection and more cooperation
- Placement of children outside their own family: Maintaining children’s interests, supporting parents, strengthening families
- Improved prevention in the social environment
- More inclusion, effective assistance, fewer interfaces.
The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) is expected to submit relevant draft legislation in 2020.
Incorporation of children’s rights in the Basic Law
The current coalition agreement calls for enshrining children’s rights in Germany’s Basic Law. To this end, a joint Federal-Länder working group (Bund-Länder-Arbeitsgruppe) deliberated on the corresponding amendments to the Basic Law that would incorporate children’s rights as referenced in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Germany ratified in 1992. In particular, the best interests of the child (cf. Article 3 of the UN Convention) and appropriate consideration of the child’s views (Article 12) are to be incorporated.
Both the public and political debate centre around the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. From a youth policy point of view, it is evident that the discussions on its impact on young people focus less on its implications for adolescence as a phase of training, independence and positioning than on its impact on young people’s opportunities on the labour market and in education. For instance, much attention is given to the difficulties experienced by young people as they enter the labour market during the pandemic; another subject of debate is the policy implications of students having to continue their education from home. While there is already some initial scientific insight into the consequences of the pandemic on young people’s lives beyond the labour market and education, it barely features in the public debate.
Another current topic is the impact of the pandemic on child and youth services. Some scientific data is already available on this, e.g., studies on the consequences for youth welfare offices (cf. results of the German Youth Institute's 2020 "youth barometer" [DJI-Jugendhilfeb@rometer 2020]). The child and youth services community, too, has pointed out that many questions remain unanswered (cf. policy statement by the Child and Youth Welfare Association (AGJ) on Corona). Other subjects under discussion include replacing case-by-case action with structural enablement of child protection; providing support and mentoring in lockdown conditions; and safeguarding the existence of social institutions and welfare services.
In the context of the demography strategy (> Chapter 1.3. National Youth Strategy > Responsible authority for the implementation of the youth strategy), the question of young people’s participation is a valid one. How can young people’s interests be adequately considered in the public debate? This has become all the more relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic. The debate around how to manage the pandemic has in many ways failed to take adequate account of young people’s concerns; worse, they are often stigmatised as a group that is contributing disproportionately to the spread of the virus. To strengthen young people’s ability to influence social developments, Franziska Giffey, the Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, with backing from the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens (Grüne), suggested in 2020 to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 for the parliamentary, i.e. national, elections (Bundestagswahlen).
Independent Youth Policy
The debate around reshaping Germany’s youth policy approach to create what is known as an Independent Youth Policy (Eigenständige Jugendpolitik) at both federal and state level began in 2009 and continues to this day (> Chapter 1.3. National Youth Strategy > Scope and contents). It incorporates a variety of issues such as youth participation, the connection between educational policy and youth policy, raising awareness among decision-makers for the concerns and interests of young people at national, state and local level, and the realisation that many general social policy issues are of specific relevance to young people (cf. the 2020 policy statement of the Child and Youth Welfare Association (AGJ) on youth policy).
Other current issues in the youth policy field include
- Promotion of democracy
- Impact of flight and migration