4.3 Strategy for the social inclusion of young people
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The current Swedish youth strategy has a clear focus on social inclusion. A specific target group in the youth strategy is young people between 16 and 20 years of age, who are not in education and have not completed secondary or equivalent education.The goal of the youth policy, presented in chapter 1.3 National Youth strategy, is:
All young people should have access to good living conditions, power to shape their own lives and influence over the development of the society.
A renewed action programme was presented in March 2021 (Government Communication 2020/21:105). The action programme includes 100 government initiatives within the four priorities that the communication has defined. The priorities are young people's mental well-being, social and labour market inclusion of young people, meaningfull leisure activies for all young people and young people's participation in society.
Due to the covid-19 pandemic, youth unemployment has risen to the same levels as during the crisis of the 1990s and the economic crisis in the years 2008–2010. Therefore, the Communication includes several initiatives aimed at facilitating young people's entry into the labour market. Young people not in education, employmnet or training are addressed, as well as those in long-term unemployment. Young women with migrant backround and young people with disabilities are specifically targeted, as their situation often is even more complex when it comes to labour market inclusion. The action programme adresses even equal rights and opportunities for young LGBTIQ people.
The previous action programme focused on efforts for improving the situation for young people whose social, participatory, educational och health related conditions were more severe compared to other young people.
Also with a clear focus on social inclusion, the Swedish Government presented in 2015 a strategy for young people who neither work nor study, Vägar framåt - strategi för unga som varken arbetar eller studerar (Ways forward - a strategy for young people who neither work nor study). The strategy presented measures the government has taken 2015–2018.
The overall aim of the strategy was to improve opportunities for young people who neither work nor study, so they can get a job and be included in society. The strategy was focused on young people between 15 and 25 years of age, with special attention to those who are facing the greatest difficulties in terms of social inclusion. Groups specifically targeted were young people with disabilities, those who have not completed upper secondary school and young immigrants.
The main elements in the strategy for young people who neither work nor study were:
- young people who neither work nor study – description of the current situation
- ongoing actions targeting all young people, to begin and complete an upper secondary education
- ongoing initiatives targeting unemployed youth
- ongoing initiatives targeting young people who neither work nor study
- description of the need for action for increased collaboration, knowledge and interventions focused directly at the target audience.
The government offices and more specifically, the Ministries for Education and Labour market, were responsible for actions taken within their respective domains. For each action of the strategy, the Government has commissioned a responsible actor.
Evaluation of the strategy
The Swedish Agency for Public Management (Statskontoret) has been commissioned by the government to evaluate the implementation of measures in the government's strategy for young people who neither work nor study (NEET). The mission also included reporting the impact of the measures and analyzing the possible need for further action in the context of youth policy.
Main findings in the Swedish Agency for Public Management's final reportare the following:
The government's strategy has covered a wide area and has involved many actors of various kinds. It sweeps over many societal problems affecting young people: that LGBTQ people face particular difficulties, that newly arrived migrants may find it difficult to integrate into society, that people with disabilities or mental illness do not always meet a society that can understand and adapt to them.
The agency's overall picture of the strategy is that the government's ambition has been to tackle the problems from different directions, but that there is no clear idea of how the different parts should be interconnected and complement each other. What more, the agency does not find the strategy as coherent.
The activities that the Agency for Public Management has looked at have often had the ambition to reach all young people who neither work nor study (NEET). But it can be difficult to find one method to fit all types of challenges these young people have. Most of the projects that have been carried out with the help of government grants have been of small scale. It is also generally the case for the strategy that most of the efforts have only received limited resources.
Not only many actors have been involved in the strategy. It also includes a variety of work methods and targets a group that is not homogeneous. The only traits everyone in the target group shares is that they are young individuals who neither work nor study.
The fact that the involved actors have presented similar observations and conclusions in their final reports may strengthen their legitimacy, but the overall assessment is that the breadth of the strategy has not contributed to an efficient use of resources allocated to them.
First evaluation of the strategy
The first evaluation, from October 2017, is a interim report of the assignment that is to be finalized by June 2019. The interim report focuses on the three actions in the strategy that were dir ected directly to the target group. These are:
- An assignment to the Agency for Youth and Civil Society (MUCF) to allocate state grants to municipalities and coordination associations that start new or develop "one way in" activities and outreach activities for young people who neither work nor study.
- An assignment to the Swedish National Council of Adult Education to allocate state grants to folk high schools and study associations to match education with the individual's prerogatives and employers' need for skills.
- An assignment to the National Agency for Education to carry out efforts to prevent early leaving from upper secondary education.
Main findings in the interim report are the following:
The measures had a slow start It has taken time to get started with the actions in the strategy. A contributing factor is that the preparatory work of the national actors has taken time, inter alia because they have had difficulty in interpreting and concluding the government's mission. This applies in particular to the Swedish National Agency for Education, whose efforts to prevent early leaving from upper secondary education have not started until autumn 2017.
The measures seem to make a difference Local initiatives funded under the strategy are still at an initial stage. Therefore, it is not possible to draw any conclusions about their effects. But those who run the various projects are on the whole optimistic. There are also several examples of concrete results of the activity, where individuals have been helped to start studying or working. The report points to a number of success factors for the actions. Some are geographical proximity, personal commitment and focus on the individual's needs and wishes. Among positive factors are also environments and activities of a more informal character, outside of official steering processes. Folk high schools, which are often run by civil society and are outside of municipal steering, have an advantage in this regard.
The measures do not benefit all young people in NEET situation In total, almost 50 different projects have been awarded government funding. However, the interest in applying for government funding for carrying out NEET activities has been much greater than the availability of funds. Many project applications have therefore been rejected. Municipalities and country counties with relatively higher shares of NEET are somewhat underrepresented among the projects that have been supported. This is due, in part, to the fact that fewer applications have been received from those parts of the country with the highest amounts of NEET. However, it is also because applications from municipalities with high shares of NEET have been granted to a lesser extent. It is the quality of the applications that are considered in the process, not the applicants' need for contributions.
The projects are not designed for evaluations and dissemination of knowledge The projects have limited funds for a limited period of time. Projects financed under the strategy therefore can be seen as pilot studies. However, there is a risk that the knowledge from these pilot studies will not be taken care of, as the projects are not evaluated to any larger extent. This is partly related to the limited resources.
The future of the measures is uncertain The project owners testify in several cases that government funding has been very important. A state contribution means that local administrations do not need to carry the financial responsibility for the activities, which has made it easier to get started. It is also often quicker to apply for government grants than to obtain funds through the usual municipal processes. However, it is unclear what will happen to the operations when government funding disappears. This is especially true of public education projects. Those who run the projects hope to show such good results that their school principal wants to integrate the efforts into the regular activity, but there is not always a plan for how this will be done.
Preventive work important for future action If the government wishes to further develop the measures, the Swedish Agency for Public Management recommends the government to review the extent to which the actions are designed to achieve the purposes and how the government can improve the long-term conditions for the work. In the long run, to prevent young people from dropping out of school is the most important measure. Primary school has a key role here.
A renewed action programme was presented in March 2021. The most relevant parts are presented above.