5.10 Ongoing debates and reforms
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Youth participation in national politics
In recent years possibilities for more participation of young people in politics and policies have been investigated. In its final report Lage dijken, hoge drempels (Low dykes, high tresholds) in 2018, the State Committee Parliamentary System (Staatscommissie parlementair stelsel) concluded, among other things, that there was insufficient attention to the interests and ideals of underrepresented groups in Dutch democracy, like young people. The committee advised to install a youth parliament. After consulting young people in 2019 and 2020, the Minister and the State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations concluded that the majority of the young people preferred another type of participation. In May 2020 the Minister began to have weekly discussions with youngsters between 16 and 24 year old about issues that matter to them. Also the Number Five Foundation and young people together explored the possibilities for youth participation, on the national and the local level. Their findings have been published in the report Bondgenoten in de democratie (Allies in democracy). In response to this report, the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations sent a letter to Parliament in Spring 2021 in which she announced the start of six pilot projects, for example to support municipalities to develop youth participation methods and to establish youth councils that co-develop national policies with administrators.
As mentioned in paragraph 3.2, young people have organized themselves in Coalitie-Y (Coalition-Y) and the Jongeren Denktank Coronacrisis (Young People Think Tank Corona Crisis) to gain (political) attention to urgent matters faced by young people due to government policies and measures taken against the spread of the corona virus. For the first time in history, representatives of youth organizations were invited to share their views during the formation of a new Dutch cabinet in Spring 2021.
Youth participation in local politics
Many municipalities still struggle with the decentralization of the social domain. Most of them have little expertise as yet of how to involve youth in decision-making processes. In 2018 the Netherlands’ Ombudsman for Children together with ten youth organizations wrote a letter (in Dutch) to newly elected city councilors to ask them to involve children and young people in planning and executing municipal policies. In 2021 the Netherlands Youth Institute, the Dutch National Youth Council, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations and the Number Five Foundation published the Guide to durable youth participation (Handreiking duurzame jongerenparticipatie) to inspire and motivate municipalities to structurally facilitate youth participation.
Positive youth policies
Although positive youth policies have been promoted for over a decade and many best practices have been implemented, municipalities’ financial problems (due to budget cuts and an increasing demand for youth care) delay a total transformation of the Dutch youth care system including supporting young people’s normal upbringing and the development of their skills and talents.
Participation on the labor market
The Netherlands experience ageing of the population (vergrijzing). It is to be expected that young people will be required to work longer because there will not be sufficient pension funds to allow for early retirement.
Gap between higher and lower educated people
The gap between higher and lower educated people is increasing. The Dutch Education Council indicates that the early selection process in the educational system is one of the reasons. The council advices in its report Later selecteren, beter differentiëren (Select later, differentiate better) of 2021 to adapt the educational system: postpone the moment of selection to the age of 15 (instead of the age of 12), arrange classes with pupils from all levels in the first three years of secondary education and offer education on different levels in classes in primary and secondary education. The new Cabinet will respond to this advice.