Youth Policies towards Inequalities in European Countries
SpainThe situation of young people in Europe and (innovative) policy answers
2. How do existing policies address these challenges?
Examples of success or good practices addressing some of the urgent areas mentioned are limited to specific areas and administrations, namely municipalities, such as the one of Quart de Poblet (a town in the metropolitan area of Valencia). What makes the difference in this cases is mainly that youth policies are participatory, involving the young at all levels and stages of the policy making process and implementation. Apart from this institutional practices, the work of some NGOs with youth in high risk of social exclusion could be considered examples of good practice, too. The key to their success is their aim to empower the young and the process‐oriented and individualised intervention strategy.
Most of these cases can be considered innovative for their exceptionality, but not in terms of novelty, as they have been in place for many years. The initiatives aroused from specific organisations, municipal councils or individuals, with little or nonexistent institutional support from higher scales of government (regional or national).
3. How to increase capability-friendly policies in Spain?
To increase capability‐friendly policies in Spain, changes both in the contents of policies and on policy‐making processes should be considered:
Firstly, talking about the content of policies, it can be said that the present situation in Spain is not one for thinking of new policies, taking into account the severe budget cuts, the dismantlement of social protection systems and the low political priority for the young. It is true that crises are opportunities for reinventing and creating fresh systems and institutional settings. However, the budget cuts in Spain have affected the foundations of the social welfare system and increased the inequalities (especially for the young). Therefore, the first step would be to restore some of the old policies, especially those ensuring equitable access to health and education.
In relation to youth employment, active policies are needed to provide guidance, training and support to the young looking for their first job. In order to do so, unlike what happens with the present youth employment measures, a long‐term youth employment strategy, good quality training programmes and more job advisers are required.
Moreover, local level youth programmes should be encouraged, aiming primarily at promotion of the participation of the young.
To what concerns the youth in high risk of social exclusion, there is a need of a change of paradigm: the state has to fulfil its obligation to provide equal opportunities to this population sector. This means devoting the resources needed for social services, social emergency help or prevention programmes, but also holding into account the stakeholders that are providing these services.
There has also to be a shift of the emphasis, from “reform” of youngsters to prevention, and an effort to embrace the plurality of situations within the youth in risk of social exclusion. Paternalistic approaches should be replaced by other programmes focusing on empowering the young and with a process orientation (which requires more stable funding and professional itineraries of social workers). Several existing successful cases can be used as inspiration for this.
Second, and moving into the policy‐making, there is a need of a more participatory approach to policy‐ processes that affect the Spanish youth. Presently, there is a big gap between the policy making sphere and the day to day life of the young. This participation should involve all the actors active in the sector. This includes municipal youth councillors, municipal youth professionals or NGOs managing day‐centres, for example, who have good knowledge of the ground realities. In this respect, it is important to bridge professional and competencerelated gaps between youth sector and the youth social exclusion sector. In addition, it would be good to offer pportunities for the policy makers at higher level to be exposed to these realities ‐for instance, through immersions.
The youth should obviously have a prominent role in the process too, not only at the stage of the implementation, but also during the definition and design of policies. The promotion of participation of the young should be valued not only as a means to inform policies, but also as an empowering process that contributes to creating active citizenship. This can also have the spill over effect of increasing the relevance of the youth as policy stakeholder, giving more weight to their broader political demands.
The youth councils are a relevant interlocutor of the youth and should thus be listened to and economically supported. However, there is also a need to interact with the young that are not participating in any organisation. This calls for innovative participatory dynamics, including for instance the use of internet and the social media. Specific barriers to participation of the young in high risk of social exclusion should also be taken into account and addressed.
flag of the country courtesy of © www.nordicfactory.com