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EACEA National Policies Platform


1. Youth Policy Governance

1.1 Target population of youth policy

Last update: 31 March 2022

In the Netherlands, the term youth is applied to children and young people from 0 up to the age of 25. In 2021, there were almost 4.9 million children in this age group: children (0 – 12 years) and young people (12 – 25 years). This is 28% of the total population of 17,5 million inhabitants. As in most other industrialized countries, the proportion of youth in the total population is decreasing.

Youth policy focusses on preventive and specialized guidance, care, and support for children and young people. Different legal frameworks apply, depending on a child’s age and the type of support needed:

  • The age of maturity in Dutch law is 18 years.
  • Compulsory education is from 5 to 16 years. Primary school starts at the age of 4 and finishes at the age of 12.
  • Secondary school starts at 12 years until the age of 16 - 17. If no starting qualification is reached, children are obliged to continue education until 18 years. (A starting qualification means having gained at least a senior general secondary education (HAVO) diploma or a secondary vocational education (MBO) level 2 diploma. See also paragraph 3.1.)
  • The national preventive youth health care programme is offered to all children and young people up to 18 years. This programme is part of the Public Health Act that applies to all citizens.
  • The promotion of child and youth participation is a part of local active citizenship policies. The corresponding Social Support Act applies to all citizens, including youngsters.
  • Children and young people until 18 years old can receive preventive and specialized support and care according to the Child and Youth Act. If needed and wished for, youth care and foster care that started before a young person’s 18th birthday may be extended to their 23rd birthday.
  • Public health and (mental) health care for mature citizens is regarded as adult care, with the aforementioned exception of extended youth care and foster care.

Paragraph 1.2 lists all legal frameworks concerning youth.
More information can be also found on the Dutch governmental website, in the Youth monitor or  on the website of the Netherlands Youth Institute.