1.1 Target population of youth policy
Currently, there is no universally accepted definition of youth. In most cases, the group is referred to by terms young people or youth. The definition of youth varies in the legislations of the different policy areas. The age of adulthood, the upper age limit of compulsory education, the right to vote, and other issues are more or less the same in most countries in the European Union. In most areas, the age of 18 is the boundary between childhood and (young) adulthood. However, the school-leaving age was lowered from 18 to 16 in 2011 (OECD 2015).
Hungarian Fundamental Law
The Fundamental Law of Hungary mentions young people twice. The National Avowal contains a more general, moral statement about the role of the future generation:
'We trust in a jointly-shaped future and the commitment of the younger generations. We believe that our children and grandchildren will make Hungary great again with their talent, persistence and moral strength.' Apart from this section, there is only one reference to young people in Article XVIII. According to this, '[…] by means of separate measures, Hungary shall ensure the protection of young people and parents at work.'
The two most recent youth-related documents are the National Youth Strategy (Nemzeti Ifjúsági Stratégia, referred hereinafter to as NYS) and the Programme for the Future of the New Generation Youth Policy Framework Programme, which entered into force as a government programme. Both programmes contain definitions for youth.
National Youth Strategy
The strategy that was adopted by the Parliament in 2009 (Parliament Resolution 88/2009. [X. 29.] on the National Youth Strategy) describes young people in the following way:
'The target group of the strategy – in its connotative meaning – extends from the appearance of the peer group to responsibility taken for one another. […] This time horizon classifies people aged between approx. 8-12 years and approx. 25-30 years as youth (the international and national practice of law defines childhood as the age group between 0-18 years).' (National Youth Strategy)
However, evolving trends in society and professional dilemmas make it necessary to leave more room in the youth field for approaches that focus on individual characteristics regardless of age. Although classifications by age groups provide a scientifically approved theoretical basis, they do not take precedence over the inherent principle of youth policy that the individual is unique and inimitable and - taking into account his or her biological development and social status - can only be categorised with reservations. (NYS, 2009 p. 6.)
It should be noted that the Strategy calls for large-scale quantitative youth research conducted every four years, which covers the age group of 15-29-year-olds, in accordance with the traditions of the international and national youth research. The Act LXIV of 1995 on Children and Youth Fund (Gyermek és Ifjúsági Alap, referred hereinafter to as GYIA) also refers to this age group as youth.
Programme for the Future of the New Generation
The 2012 Programme for the Future of the New Generation marked people aged 14 to 35 the main target group of youth policy.
The New Generation Reloaded Project (Új Nemzedék Újratöltve) that developed into the Elisabeth Youth Fund (Erzsébet Ifjúsági Alap) defined the age group of 15-25 year olds as its target group in accordance with the Youth Guarantee Programme.
Child Protection Act
Other important laws and regulations also refer to young people as well the Act XXXI of 1997 on Child Protection (1997. évi XXXI. törvény a gyermekek védelméről és a gyámügyi igazgatásról) determines the age of youth in the following way:
'b) a juvenile is a person who:
ba) had reached the age of 14 years at the time of an offence committed,
bb) had reached the age of 14 years at the time of a crime committed before 1 July 2013,
bc) had reached the age of 12 years at the time of a crime committed after 30 June 2013 but had not yet reached the age of 18 or the age of 21 in case of having been raised in a juvenile detention centre,
c) young adult is a person who has reached adulthood but has not reached the age of 24.'
Under the Act, young adults are entitled to certain support and mentoring, in particular through rehabilitation and aftercare.
Labour and Civil Code
According the Labour Code (Munka Törvénykönyve), a young worker is an 'employee who has not reached the age of 18'. As minors, they have special rights regarding the duration of employment, and health and safety at work. The Civil Code (Polgári Törvénykönyv) considers those as minors, who are under 18 years of age. As far as their legal status is concerned, minors over the age of 14 usually do not have full legal capacity
The Criminal Code (Büntető Törvénykönyv) has lowered the age limit for criminal liability from the age of 14 to 12 in case of juvenile offenders (the referred part from the Child Protection Act also implies it). The crimes to which the age limit has to be applied include robbery and theft. Nevertheless, this measure has not significantly changed the legal practice as the number of juvenile detained is low; in December 2019 only 2 juveniles under the age of 16 were detained. (Börtönstatisztikai Szemle 2020)