Youth policy forms a part of the broader youth affairs. The main activity areas of youth policy include youth work, social, employment, health, cultural, family and crime prevention policy. In addition to the education, research and language policy, the area of administration of the Ministry of Education and Research also contains the development of youth policy.
The objective of the Youth Work Strategy 2006-2013 was to develop and implement coordinated and purposeful actions following the actual needs and challenges of young people in different spheres of life, i.e. the integrated youth policy.
The development of the integrated youth policy was supported through youth work until 2011, as no separate activities were forseen in the implementation plans for integrated youth policy.
Youth Field Development Plan for 2014-2020
On 1 January 2013, Estonia had 288,492 young people at the age of 7–26, which forms 22.4% of the Estonian population. As in many other European countries, the proportion of young people among population is decreasing. According to the forecast of the Statistics Estonia, the proportion of youth among total population continues to decrease until 2022 when it will gradually start to increase again. The growth trend prevails until 2039 and then the share of youth among the total population will start decreasing again.
Negative trends, such as the growing emigration of youth, high unemployment rate of youth aged 15–19, the number of young people not studying or working, high relative poverty rate, problematic health behaviour, incl. in particular the risk behaviour of young men, require special attention. Attention must be paid to the causes of such trends, prevention of potential consequences and reduction in undesirable influence. It is also necessary to promote the continuation of positive trends.
The following principles of the previous strategy serve as a basis upon implementation of the Youth Field Development Plan for 2014-2020:
- Addressing youth as a whole. In order to implement really efficient activities to achieve any objective or solve any problem concerning young people, it is necessary to observe young people’s living in its entity as well as factors affecting it and not to stay within the limits of an area of administration of the institutions or fields;
- involvement of youth as means to ensure good quality and impact of the planned measures;
- achievement of the common impact or the pursuit to the greater common impact through the use of different fields and knowledge.
Main principles of the measures of the development plan:
- the target group consisting of youth is not homogeneous. In developing and implementing any measures and activities, the actual conditions and needs of specific group of young people must be followed and specialties arising from the gender, nationality, culture, state of health, place of residence, socio-economic situation, etc., must be taken into account.
- Youth work supports the health as well as values and attitudes promoting healthy lifestyle of youth through all the measures. This presumes the continuous development of competencies and tools of people working in the field of youth and relies on knowledge-based approach by target groups, training courses, tools and interventions.
- Youth affairs also contribute to the integration of society, including promotion of equality and prevention of discrimination as well as care for the surrounding environment.
- Upon developing and implementing measures of youth policy and youth work, it is important to assist youth in obtaining self-confidence and ability to cope with crucial spheres of life, such as studies, labour market, family relations, etc. The difficulties of youth must be early noticed and, if necessary, assistance must be provided to find the required professional support.
- Youth affairs form a part of the functioning cooperation between different areas related to the life of youth. If necessary, systemic cooperation must be initiated and the operation thereof must be supported.
Within 2014-2020 youth affairs focus on objectives and measures that help to achieve a positive change in the most important challenges faced by youth and society. The general objective of the development plan is extensive possibilities of youth for development and self-realisation that supports the formation of a coherent and creative society. The development plan does not describe the entire area of youth affairs (i.e. youth policy and youth work) and does not reflect upon measures of other youth-related spheres of life and strategies targeted at youth, but has close connections with them.
The measures and activities of youth affairs are designed to achieve the goals and objectives, such as the following:
- young people have more choices to open their creative and development potential;
- youth has a lower risk to be marginalised;
- the participation of young people in decison-making processes is more supported;
- youth affairs function more efficiently.
The achievement of the general objective is measured by indicators of the Estonia 2020 competitiveness strategy:
- the share of youth at the age of 18–24 who have basic education or even lower level of education and who do not continue studies;
- unemployment rate of youth in the age group of 15–24.
Implementation and cost of the development plan
The development plan will be carried out on the basis of the implementation plans. The draft of the first implementation plan is prepared for 2014–2017. In addition to the Ministry of Education and Research, other ministries and institutions and associations of youth affairs, local authorities and county governments will take part in the implementation of the development plan in terms of their area of responsibility in the activities set out in the implementation plan of the development plan. The Estonian Youth Work Centre and Estonian National Agency for the Erasmus+ Programme of the Archimedes Foundation play a crucial role upon implementing the plan within the area of administration of the Ministry of Education and Research.
The total cost of the development plan is EUR 90 million. EUR 47 million of this amount is formed of external support where the share of Erasmus+: the EU programme for education, youth and sport constitutes EUR 24 million, structural funds of the European Union EUR 19 million and the Norway and EEA grant EUR 4 million.
The youth policy of the European Union as well as of the Council of Europe also have a significant role in devising and implementing youth policy in Estonia.
Estonia has bilateral cooperation agreements on youth affairs with the Flemish Community in Belgium and with Finland. Both agreements are primarily targeted at exchange of experience between youth workers and youth work organisations. In addition to Estonia, the Latvian and Lithuanian partners of youth affairs also participate in the cooperation with the Flemish Region. Estonia has a separate cooperation programme with Moldova with the aim of analysing the developments of youth policy and youth work in both countries. Possibilities for cooperation between parties to youth affairs have also been highlighted in several international cooperation agreements of the area of education. For more information, see the webpage of international agreements.