Youth Policies towards Inequalities in European Countries
GermanyThe situation of young people and (innovative) policy answers
2. How do existing policies address these challenges?
In Germany one can observe the contradictory situation that municipalities predominantly have to deal with poverty and its surrounding social problems in a financial and professional perspective, but their local budgets are pruned and limited so that accompanying programmes are hardly build up. A national strategy or rather joint-up social policy concerning youth poverty as well as formal opportunities in the transition from school to work is missing. In addition to this, we have to say that although social service organisations daily work with young poor clients, they know very little about structural conditions of youth poverty and there is hardly any political advocacy, where the situation of young poor adults is brought up to policymaking. Only two (quite new) initiatives concerning youth poverty from two third sector organisations established an internal and public “image campaign” to uncover this social problem1. While there was a big shift to a “no child left behind” policy in the last years, a visible youth (poverty) policy remained a blind spot.
Furthermore the nationwide „centre for an independent youth policy” (CIYP) currently develops a tool for youth mainstreaming called “Youth Check”. It should work as a guideline for divergent policy areas and ministries. The essential question is, if this youth check is coming along with political power (i.e. veto rights) or if it remains a dead letter.
1 Aktiv gegen Armut, IB für Würde und Teilhabe [Together against youth poverty, Internationaler Bund]: http://internationaler-bund.de/mainnavigation/ib-gruppe/aktiv-gegen-armut/; Jugend(ar)mut from the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Katholische Jugendsozialarbeit [youth poverty/youth courage; working group of catholic youth welfare]: www.jugendarmut.info
3. What should be the content of "new" policies?
Until now, social innovation was seen as an institutionally driven perspective, where new
programmes and measurements were established and tried to tackle uprising social problems. Governmental and non-governmental actors are seen as the agencies for social innovation. But youth participation is now seen as the social innovation per se. Derived from the EU youth strategy, several policies in Germany occurred, where an independent youth policy was proclaimed and a broad focus on youth should be established.2 In line with these newer ways of dealing with youth policy, participation becomes omnipresent in public
discourses and politically postulated and promoted. Participation is often seen as a means
for other ends and vice versa. Finally it has to be questioned if these processes are more than “symbolic innovations” and give rise to the power of young people and their perspectives in policy making processes. Youth policy faces the ambivalence that on the one hand political responsibilities are not clear cut (there is no policy “of a piece”) and on the other hand every policy field can influence the situation and opportunities of young people (i.e. urban policy or transport policy). Furthermore there exists no genuine (and holistic) youth reporting on a municipality level. A perspective on societal conditions of growth (which are shaped by forms of institutionalisation and situated conflicts) or a decisive
perspective on unequal conditions would increase capability-friendly policies.
2 Three main initiatives were highlighted in the German report: the European “Structured dialogue”, the national “centre for an independent youth policy” and a regional initiative from North Rhine-Westphalia called “Umdenken - Jungdenken”.
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