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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.1 General context

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Historical developments
  2. National definition or undertanding of Youth Work


Historical developments

In Spain, youth work tradition has over 45 years of history, since the beginning of the democracy. Before, during Franco’s dictatorship (from 1939 to 1975), youth work was bounded to Catholic religion and the Church since both played a very important role at the time, specially in educational matters.

Once the dictatorship was over and Spain became a democracy, some youth work initiatives were born and can be found in The Volume 7 of History of Youth Work in Europe, that develops a brief history on youth work in Spain. An example is the Youth Institute (Instituto de la Juventud), founded in 1977 and restructured in 1985 to become a modern type of organization now attached to the Ministry of Social Rights and 2030 Agenda (Ministerio Derechos sociales y Agenda 2030). Some years later, in 1983, they founded The Spanish Youth Council. Both initiatives were well driven in 1985, the International Year of Youth, considered a milestone for youth work because it was the year in which public youth policies took off.

Youth policies became standard practice in the 1990s. That decade set the consolidation of a network of youth organizations mainly funded by the public authorities, and it was also in that decade that educational work with young people began to develop as a result of the professionalization of social education and social services. However, given the 2008 economic recession and the resulting cuts in public funding, many youth associations and youth departments set up during the 1990s are now at risk of being disbanded as a result of lack of funds, thus weakening youth work in Spain.

National definition or undertanding of Youth Work

Youth work is not officially recognized as a profession in Spain. The concept still lacks a clear definition in the Spanish context. Some youth work activities have involved a wide range of professionals (social workers, psychologists, sociologists, social educators and community development workers) whose employment conditions depend on the employer and the importance attached to youth work. These professionals usually work in the youth departments of the autonomous regions, local authority youth departments and provincial social services departments.


Additionally, some Spanish universities have offered postgraduate programmes focused on youth work and/or youth policy and research, but nowadays the offer master’s degree specialized in youth work is very limited. The lack of official recognition and the high fees discourage future youth workers from enrolling. Many youth workers, particularly those working in a more local level, have acquired their skills in the voluntary sector, in NGOs devoted to education in leisure time, and trained in courses provided by these kinds of organizations.