Where are we so far
Public authorities engaging with youth: some results (WP3)
The aim of Work Package 3 was to examine contemporary youth policy discourses in the EU member states by:
I) identifying and analyzing key policy discourses on youths at the European, national and regional level;
II) investigating potential coherence or tension between these levels;
III) investigating congruency and/or conflicts between formal youth policy documents and policy actors. The intention is to offer an additional perspective to the project by recognizing the views of public authorities and how these affect the policy outcomes.
111 participants, including Politicians, Public Officials, Youth Organization at the national, regional and local level from 8 European countries were interviewed on the following themes: the first theme covers the influence and significance of the EU in the policy area at the national level, while the second one treats the national perspective on youth policy. The third theme is about how young people are presented and described which is followed by a problem definition. Further solutions, responsible actors and the role of young people are examined. Finally comes a comparison between the interviews and the policy documents as well as a section where the authors are able to shed light on other interesting findings, which in addition minimizes the risk of letting important results go unnoticed. For a detailed presentation of the work package results the WP3 Blue Paper may be consulted: here we summarize some key findings
Influence and significance of the EU in the policy area
The distance between the member states and the EU is to some extent perceived as an obstacle for the union to gain actual influence. The EU youth policy is sometimes described as too abstract or too vague for practical use. At the same time it is pointed out that the EU cannot and even should not steer the member states’ actions regarding policy area.
There is as well an all-embracing recognition of the EU as a source to create a favorable milieu. The Erasmus+ project and the encouraged ability to move, study and live in different European countries are all seen as facilitators and a privilege of contemporary young Europeans. Yet, this is not viewed entirely positively. The opportunities are distributed unequally among the youths and furthermore, sometimes EU is even blamed to force the youths to move from their home countries and thereby draining member states of competence.
How young people are presented and described?
A common distinction is between those in education and those who are not, between high and low socio-economic status and between active and non-active youths. From the interviews and the documents an overall tendency to apply a two-folded perspective of young people emerged: they are represented as both resourceful and capable to take part in the policy-making process, or vulnerable and at risk to fall into criminality or social welfare dependency. But there is also a critique of such simplification and there is a notion of the importance to reach all youths – for example by cross-sectoral policies and cooperation.
The problems of young Europeans and the solutions:
Throughout the reports, having a job and getting educated are hence prominent. Employment is in general perceived as the cornerstone for emancipation and social inclusion, and to belong to the group of NEETs (Not in Education, Employment or Training) for a longer period of time is seen as a risk for mental illness, radicalization, criminality and dependency of social welfare support. In general, participation, emancipation, the ability to frame one’s own life are central themes. Education, job, mobility and ability to raise your own voice all are seen as substantial solutions contributing to the objectives and cross-sectoral policies….but the political parties and the relationship to the civil society organizations are generally left out of the discussions about promoting young peoples presence at labor market as well in the political institutions.