The Ministry of Education and Research defines the main guidelines for youth work in Estonia. The Estonian Youth Work Centre is in charge of the practical organisation of youth work at national level. The Estonian National Agency for the EU Youth in Action Programme contributes to the realisation of the programme objectives as well as to the specific objectives to promote active citizenship of young people. County governors coordinate the implementation of the national youth policy in the counties, and the executive tasks are being taken care of by local governments.
The Youth Work Act provides a basis for youth work activities in Estonia. The framework which lays out trends, priorities and responsibilities for youth policy and youth work in Estonia is the Youth Work Strategy . The current strategy for 2006-2013 is based on earlier national policy documents and on European and international policy recommendations.
Estonian law defines a young person as aged between 7 and 26 years. As of 1 January 2010, there were 330 155 young people in Estonia, constituting 24,6% of the population.
The aim of the integrated youth policy is to provide young people with experiences of non-formal learning opportunities, guidance, well-being, participation and social belonging as close as possible to their place of residence. As the result of integrated youth policy young people manage successfully with the choices and challenges ahead.
According to the current strategy the main aim is to increase variability, accessibility and quality of youth work services. Although the strategy defines broad national youth work trends, the identification of needs and specific priorities takes place at the municipal level. A means of assessing the quality of youth work is currently being developed, as a primary measure to be achieved under the strategy. A national programme increasing the quality of youth work has been established within the frame of National Human Resource Development Plan for 2008-2013. The main aim of the programme is to increase the competitiveness of young people in the labour market through youth work.
Youth work in Estonia is organised by youth associations, youth centres, hobby-schools, youth camps, work camps, youth programmes and projects, and extracurricular activities in schools. Specific youth work structures also include information and counselling centres.
Young people can spend time with one another in youth clubs, youth houses and youth centres. There are currently 218 open youth centres across the country. Young people can attend courses of music, arts, sports and other activities at 313 hobby-schools throughout Estonia. Youth camps also offer a wide range of activities.
Young people can influence decisions at the local, regional and national level through youth councils, student councils, advisory bodies, umbrella organisations, youth NGOs and youth projects. There are local youth councils created, run and developed by young people for young people, and also regional youth councils by every county government. For youth policy development, the Ministry of Education and Research consults the Advisory Council on Youth Policy. In relation to the Ministry of Education and Research, the Students’ Council is an advisory body through which young people can influence education-related issues.
There are youth associations and students’ councils in schools and universities across the country as well as umbrella organisations representing these at national level. The Ministry of Education and Research provides annual grants for them. Part of the funding in the youth field is allocated by the Gambling Tax Council. Apart from state grants, local government budgets also provide funding for cultural and youth issues.