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EACEA National Policies Platform


10. Youth work

10.3 Support to youth work

Last update: 18 June 2024
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  1. Policy legal framework
  2. Funding
  3. Cooperation

Policy legal framework

In Sweden, youth work is seen as a part of youth policy where the responsibility rests at the local level. That means that youth work is a municipal responsibility, steered and financed at local level both when it comes to outreach activities and to youth centres and youth clubs.

At the national level, the Swedish Government’s main tool for activities with and for young people of a social, cultural, educational or political nature is the national youth policy. One of the current youth policy priorities is giving access to meaningful leisure time activities for all young people. See chapter 1.3 for more information.

The Swedish Agency for youth and civil society (MUCF) is a government agency for matters relating to youth policy and civil society. The government’s initiatives directed towards young people are mainly channelled through the Swedish Agency for youth and civil society, and from the agency towards different professions and arenas. Currently, the agency has a government mandate to ensure that young people have access to meaningful and developing leisure activities. The agency must, among other things, offer training and knowledge-raising initiatives. This takes place through digital training courses, handbooks and online seminars. See 10.4 Smart youth work: youth work in the digital world for more information.

Offering all young people meaningful leisure activities is in Sweden regarded as a field separate from both school and social work. At the municipal level, leisure is most commonly under the responsibility of the committee of culture and /or sports. It is up to the municipality to decide whether and how leisure activities are formed, as no legislation or other national steering policies exists, that would require specific actions from the municipalities in the field of leisure.

At local level, the voluntary sector, mainly youth organisations, provides an important arena for leisure activities. Besides that, in most municipalities there are leisure centres (fritidsgårdar), primarily targeting young people between 13 and 16 years of age, or youth/culture houses for those in secondary education and up to 25 years of age. These facilities show resemblance to what in other countries are called youth clubs or community centres, depending on their specific orientation.

Youth work providers

Probably the most common connotation to youth worker is recreation leader (fritidsledare), working in a recreational centre. Other relevant professionals are include those working with:

  • Young people not in education, employment or training;
  • Young newly arrived;
  • Young people’s participation in local democracy;
  • Young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights;
  • Young people’s mental well-being.


In the History of Youth Work in Europe volume 6, Björn Andersson states that one should not expect to find much youth work in Sweden. But, he continues, there are a lot of actions and efforts directed towards young people, but few, if any, would be identified by the concept of youth work. Professionals and volunteers involved rather specify the concrete organisational setting where they work in, or just say they work with young people. He proposes six main areas for youth work in Sweden:

  • Recreational youth centres;
  • Outreach and field work;
  • Investigative/support-oriented services;
  • Residential care;
  • Therapeutic work.


Besides these six arenas, civil society is a large arena for youth work, both when it comes to youth organisations and sports associations.


Primary target groups

Young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) are a priority group within the government’s youth policy initiatives. Other groups that during the recent years have been specifically targeted are young newly arrived, young people with immigrant background or who belong to ethnic minorities, young LGBT-people and young people with disabilities.

Initiatives focusing on better knowledge and addressing mental health, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), gender equality, discrimination, violence prevention and better access to leisure activities often target the above-mentioned groups.


Local youth work is funded by respective municipality. Sweden has 290 municipalities with local governments. The municipalities have a considerable degree of autonomy and largely finance their own activities, due to independent powers of taxation. Activities that take place in within the civil society may be funded by grants from the national government as well as from the local government, and via membership fees.

Only information on the national government’s funding is available.

Swedish Inheritance Fund

If a deceased person has no spouse or close relatives and has not left a will, his/her property goes to the Swedish Inheritance Fund (Arvsfonden). The fund supports non-profit organisations and other voluntary associations wishing to test new ideas for developing activities for children, young people and the disabled.

Applications that may be supported come in most cases from non-profit organisations engaged in voluntary work, but even municipalities may be granted the right to implement a project. In such cases, the project should be innovative and conducted in close cooperation with a non-profit organisation. A project can be granted funding from the Inheritance Fund for three years.

In 2019, about 750 million Swedish kronor (75 million euros) were distributed in project grants. About 177 million Swedish kronor (17 million euros) for projects with target group children and about 418 million (42 million euros) for projects targeting youth. Projects targeting persons with disabilities were allocated about 163 million Swedish kronor (16 million euros). Projects aimed at persons with disabilities refer to projects where the main focus is on persons over 25 years of age or projects not focusing on a specific age group (Annual Report 2019).


Government grants

The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) is the government agency for matters relating to youth policy and civil society. The agency shall, according to its ordinance, work to ensure that the objectives of youth policy and of civil society policy will be achieved by:

  • presenting, gathering and disseminating knowledge;
  • contributing to the coordination of government efforts concerning youth policy;
  • cooperating with government authorities, municipalities, county councils and civil society organisations;
  • distributing state grants to civil society organisations.

In 2021, 28 million euros ( 280 million Swedish kronor) were deposited as a state grant to youth organisations. See section 5.6  Supporting youth organisations for more information.

In 2018, MUCF was tasked with distributing a one-time grant to municipalities for supporting open leisure activities.  Good working methods when promoting young people’s development to democratic citizenship and preventing risk behaviour and social exclusion were the main goals. The final report from 2019 shows that a total of 248 out of 290 municipalities chose to request the grant, of which 240 have used the whole or at least a part of the grant. The report shows that, with the help of the grant, new target groups had been reached and methods and activities had been developed to include groups that previously had not participated in open leisure activities.



At the national level, the Swedish ESF Council funded the Theme Group Youth in Working life during 2009-2017. The task of the theme group was to collect and disseminate information on the methods and the results of youth projects for young people in NEET-situation.

In 2019, The Swedish ESF Council has granted an application for young people in mobility where the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, SKR, is the project owner and the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society is a national actor. The project is called "MOVES - Mobility Offering Valuable Experience for Swedish Youth" and runs from 1 December 2019 – 30 June 30 2022. The project is aimed at making it possible for small groups of young people who neither work nor study to do international internships together within the EU. The aim is that young in NEET-situation can enter or approach work or education and strengthen their self-confidence, motivation and ability to act.

Another example is that the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society is a member of the Europe goes local – Supporting youth work at the municipal level. That is a transnational network initiated by the national agencies of the Erasmus+ Youth in Action programme, aiming for raising the quality of local youth work. Europe goes local is co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme.



The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society has the government task of ensuring that young people have meaningful and developing leisure activities since 2017. A part of that task is to investigate the needs of local youth workers and facilitate collaboration between youth work networks and other groups and actors int the field of youth work.