Estonia’s Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020
The Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 is a comprehensive government policy for young people and the youth sector. It is knowledge-based and evidence-informed, participatory in development and implementation, gender-responsive, employs a holistic approach to youth development, and is fully resourced. It is one of the first youth policies globally to fully respect the Baku Principles for Youth Policy, and one of very few to emphasize the link between public policies for young people and sustainability and the environment. Despite Estonia being one of the smallest and least populous European countries, and one of the youngest democracies on the continent, it has a rich history of youth work, youth research and youth policy, and an overall framework and strategy for the youth sector that is exemplary. The Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 is recognized with Future Policy Gold Award 2019 for Political Participation and Civil Engagement of Youth, awarded by the World Future Council in partnership with UNDP and IPU and supported by ILO. UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and Youth Policy Labs (YPL).
© Photo Credit: Ministry of Education and Research of Estonia
- Youth policy in Estonia is organized as a cross-sectorial, multi-stakeholder and multi-governance-level field, involving municipalities, counties and ministries as well as youth representatives, youth organizations, youth workers, youth researchers, and youth policymakers. The Parliament is actively involved in youth policymaking.
- The overarching goals of the Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 is phrased as ensuring that each “young person has ample opportunities for self-development and self-realisation, which supports the formation of a cohesive and creative society
- The Youth Field Development Plan 2014-2020 primarily contributes to the wider strategic framework and objectives of the ‘Estonia 2020’ Competitiveness Strategy, while its implementation is understood as necessary in order to achieve the goals set in other policy domains, such as family and population policy, labour market and social security policy, sports and integration policy. In this context, one of the four main perspectives of the document refers to the current situation of the youth field, including youth work and youth policy.
- The development plan is based on four main perspectives adopted for setting goals: 1) situation of young people and the trends of change; 2) developments in society and the challenges the state is facing, including goals in coherent policies; 3) current situation of the youth field, including youth work and youth policy: work done so far, principles and development needs; 4) trends in Europe and around the world, including objectives of the EU. The focal points, goals and measures described in the development plan are also based on analysis of these perspectives.
Strategy Sustainable Estonia 21
Estonian Lifelong Learning Strategy 2014-2020
Estonian Regional Development Strategy 2020
The Estonian Youth Work Act 2010
Youth Work Strategy 2006-2013
Children and Families Development Plan 2012-2020
Public Health Development Plan 2009-2020
Estonian Entrepreneurship Growth Strategy 2014-2020
Integrating Estonia 2020 Strategy
Civil Society Development Plan 2015-2020
Rural Development Programme 2014-2020
The Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 shows how a knowledge-based, and evidence-informed government policy can holistically support and develop young people and the youth sector. It is one of the first youth policies globally to fully respect the Baku Principles for Youth Policy, and one of very few to emphasize the link between public policies for young people and sustainability and the environment.
In its 5 years of existence, the programme has provided an integrated youth policy, with fully resourced, coordinated and focused activities in different spheres of life based on the actual needs and challenges young people face. For its noteworthy accomplishments, the Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 is recognized with Future Policy Gold Award 2019 for Political Participation and Civil Engagement of Youth.
- Our “Best Policies” are those that meet the Future Just Lawmaking Principles and recognise the interconnected challenges we face today. The goal of principled policy work is to ensure that important universal standards of sustainability and equity, human rights and freedoms, and respect for the environment are taken into account. It also helps to increase policy coherence between different sectors.
- Addresses needs and challenges of young people based on research & evidence.
- Connects public policies for young people with public policies for sustainability.
- Strong and consistent legal as well as financial commitment to young people.
- Emphasizes the link between public policies for young people, sustainability and the environment
- Exemplary use of global and regional youth policy frameworks & instruments.
- Rooted in human rights and recognizing the specificity of child & youth rights.
- Pays specific and knowledge-based attention to rural and minority youth.
- Rich knowledge-base is continuously grown for iterations and adaptations.
- Annual implementation reports with indicator progress are publicly available.
- Annual Youth Monitoring Yearbooks on the lives of young people are produced.
- Based on a year-long, open participatory process with a range of youth and civic organisations and methods.
- Youth workers, youth leaders and youth policymakers co-shape the policy.
- Multilingual access to a wide pool of relevant information is excellent.
- Cross-sectorial governance structures involves all ministries in implementation.
- Local and regional authorities are involved in all policy structures and processes.
- Involves young people as experts of their own lives meaningfully in policy.
- Considered existing and upcoming related policies from the very outset.
- Comprehensive involvement of stakeholders of related ministries & policies.
- Wide range of quantifiable benefits for young people, society & environment
- Particular attention is being paid to historically rooted sociocultural minorities.
- Uses current level of youth research as well as societal and family research well.
- Highly inclusive: education as well as youth work provisions are provided for free.
Youth policy in Estonia is organized as a cross-sectorial, multi-stakeholder and multi-governance-level field, involving municipalities, counties and ministries as well as youth representatives, youth organizations, youth workers, youth researchers, and youth policymakers. The roles and functions of each actor are described in the Estonian Youth Work Act . The Parliament is actively involved in youth policymaking, having passed the Youth Work Act and the two most recent national youth policies, the Estonian Youth Work Strategy 2006-2013 and the Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020.
Over the past 25 years, dedicated organizations and structures for youth workers (Estonian Youth Work Centre) , young people and their organizations (Estonian National Youth Council) , youth centres (Association of Estonian Open Centres) and youth programmes (Estonian National Youth Agency) were created to translate the goals and ambitions of the national youth policy into youth work at local and regional levels.
A particular strength of Estonian youth work and youth policy is that alongside traditional youth work spaces, such as youth clubs, there are also hobby schools, which are best described as hybrid spaces – often run by schools but sometimes run by civil society associations – that bring together and bridge formal and non-formal education and learning.
The overarching goals of the Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 is phrased as ensuring that each “young person has ample opportunities for self-development and self-realisation, which supports the formation of a cohesive and creative society.”
To translate this goal into policy measures, the Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 defines five policy focal areas:
- increasing opportunities for the creativity development, initiative, and collective actions of young people;
- reducing the effects of unequal circumstances on the development opportunities of young people, and preventing exclusion;
- supporting the active involvement of young people in community life and decision-making processes;
- ensuring labour market success for young people; and
- developing high-quality youth policy and youth work.
The Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 is based on a set of five principles, which are iterations of the principles underpinning the previous national youth policy of the country.
- Youth as a target group is not homogenous. For this reason, the planning and implementation of activities and measures must be based on the actual circumstances and needs of particular young people and should take into account differences arising from gender, ethnicity, culture, health, place of residence, socioeconomic situation and the like.
- Throughout its measures, youth work supports the health of young people as well as values and attitudes that promote healthy lifestyles. This requires consistent development of the resources available for youth workers and of their competence and is rooted in a knowledge-based approach to target groups, training, resources and interventions.
- The youth field contributes to social cohesion, including the promotion of gender equality, the prevention of discrimination and the fostering of caring attitudes towards the surrounding environment.
- While planning and implementing youth policy and youth work measures it is important to help young people gain self-confidence and the ability to cope in important spheres of life such as education, career and family.
- Youth field is part of an existing network of cooperation between policy areas that impact on the lives of young people. Systematic cooperation should be initiated and supported.
To operationalize the above-staged goal, the Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 defines four sub-goals with key measures, key activities, and a set of indicators with base levels and target levels.
Throughout the comparatively short history of Estonia as an independent democracy, the youth field has achieved very impressive results. In less than 30 years, a nuanced and varied system of youth policy and youth work institutions has been built up that offers many lessons to older and larger countries in Europe and beyond. Estonia ranks very high in the Human Development Index (0.871, Rank 30, in 2018) and the World Press Freedom Index (12.27, Rank 11, in 2019). In this generally favourable environment, the country has managed to establish a youth policy framework that is widely considered among the best in the world.
Already the previous strategy’s implementation was measured and publicly reported on in great detail, a practice which the current Estonian Youth Field Development Plan 2014–2020 has continued. Some of the goals had already been achieved by the end of 2017, chief among them the aim to reduce youth unemployment to 12%. Moreover, uniquely in a European as well as the global context, more than 50% of all young people are involved in youth work activities in any given year since launching the strategy.
The overall approach of Estonia to its development of youth policy, youth work and youth research could well serve as a model for other countries, big and small, and has already been recognized as a model to learn from and learn on. It is in particular the approach of Estonia to facilitate the recognition of the informally gained experiences of youth workers, which has helped to professionalize and strengthen the Estonian youth sector, that other countries could benefit from learning from as quickly and as substantively as possible.
Estonian Youth Agency, About Us, 2019
Council of Europe, Needles in haystacks. Finding a way forward for cross-sectoral youth policy, 2017
Republic of Estonia Ministry of Education and Research, Youth Work, 2017
Republic of Estonia Ministry of Education and Research, YOUTH FIELD
UN, Baku Commitment to Youth Policies, 2014