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Social inclusion of young people

Social inclusion of young people

General introduction

In general, social exclusion refers to processes that prevent individuals, groups or communities from accessing the rights, opportunities and resources that are normally available to members of society; responsible for social exclusion are often structural forces, such as: laws, public policies, institutional practices, organizational behaviours, and prevailing ideologies, values and beliefs. The list of young people at risk of social exclusion can be extended almost ad infinitum and it includes young people with disabilities, ethnic, sexual and religious minorities, homeless youth or young offenders etc. It is important, however, to be receptive to: (i) the emergence of new groups of young people at risk of social exclusion; (ii) the local particularities of exclusion for some groups; (iii) the intersectional nature of discrimination.

The EU sees social inclusion as ‘a process which ensures that those at risk of poverty and social exclusion gain the opportunities and resources necessary to participate fully in the economic, social and cultural life and to enjoy a standard of living and well-being that is considered normal in the society in which they live. Social inclusion also ensures that vulnerable groups and persons have greater participation in decision making which affects their lives and that they can access their fundamental rights'. Social inclusion is one of the eight policy areas underlining the cross-cutting approach of the EU Youth Strategy. It is also a key priority of the Youth in Action programme. In 2012, the Cyprus Presidency priority in the youth sector was the participation and social inclusion of young people with a migrant background. More recently, the trio Presidency (Ireland, Lithuania and Greece) reaffirmed EU's commitment by making Social Inclusion the overall thematic priority in the youth field for the period from January 2013 to end of June 2014. This theme includes accessibility to youth services and inclusiveness and emphasizes the importance of quality in the design and delivery of youth policy and provision.

In the context of rising youth unemployment, the Irish presidency proposed a ‘Youth Guarantee', a policy measure aiming to give young people (< 25) a ‘good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship or traineeship within four months of becoming unemployed'. In May 2013 the EU Youth Ministers will adopt Council Conclusions on the contribution of quality youth work to the development, well-being and social inclusion of young people (8575/13). A recent report by the Education, Audio-visual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission (Eurydice Unit) is presenting evidence from literature and surveys about the social exclusion of young people across the European Union, and how youth work can help.

For the Council of Europe, ‘social cohesion' is the political concept considered essential for the fulfilment of its core values: human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In 2005, the Council of Europe produced a methodological guide for the development of social cohesion indicators. It defines the social cohesion as ‘society's ability to secure the long term well-being of all its members, including equitable access to available resources, respect for human dignity with due regard for diversity, personal and collective autonomy and responsible participation' (CoE, 2005: 23). This is a comprehensive instrument that: (i) defines the strategic concepts and approaches; (ii) provides practical tools for developing questions and indicators; (iii) enables the link between measurement and policy action.

Since 1997, the CoE Youth Department is running extensive evaluations of national youth policies, based on international reviews. They include topics related to social cohesion. More recently, the Enter! Project of the Council of Europe, aims to develop policy responses to exclusion, discrimination and violence affecting young people in multicultural disadvantaged neighborhoods. Its first part (2009-2012) included a two-year training course on access to social rights, besides other activities related to gender equality in youth projects and multicultural youth work.

Social cohesion is one of the three core objectives of the Council of Europe's Youth Policy. Agenda 2020 emphasises the following priorities in the area of social inclusion of young people: (i) supporting the integration of excluded young people; (ii) ensuring young people's access to education, training and the working life, particularly through the promotion and recognition of non-formal education/ learning; (iii) supporting young people's transition from education to the labour market; (iv) supporting young people's autonomy and well-being as well as their access to decent living conditions; (v) ensuring young people's equal access to cultural, sporting and creative activities; (vi) encouraging intergenerational dialogue and solidarity.

Social exclusion is a multi-dimensional concept, not reducible to economic aspects. Besides poverty, social exclusion also involves relational issues, such as inadequate social participation, lack of social integration and lack of power (Room, 1995). For instance, in the current economic climate, there are particularly worrying trends in youth unemployment and discourses on the risk of losing an entire generation are being heard. But the crisis is not only economic; it is also social and political in nature, with many young people becoming increasingly disengaged or facing impediments in their access to social rights. Being migrant or of immigrant background, Roma, with an ethnic minority background, homeless, LGTB or with a disability, adds other layers of vulnerability and increases the barriers of access to services and networks of support. Social exclusion may perpetuate across generations. Tackling social exclusion often requires localised and tailored approaches.

On the questionnaire

This template for an information sheet on ‘Social inclusion of young people' asks about the situation and the measures taken at the national level in order to secure the social inclusion of young people). EKCYP annual questionnaires are intended to gather information about key themes of relevance to young people in Europe as defined by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Unless there otherwise specified, the term young people refers to the age range 13 – 30. This questionnaire complements the National Youth Reports by soliciting information on actions going beyond those initiated by national governments such as on available research and the impact of youth work. Also, especially in the area of social inclusion, this questionnaire is likely to produce knowledge on the situation of young people that are not well represented in the Non-Governmental Youth Organizations.

The first section will focus on an assessment of the situation of young people related to social inclusion. The subsequent sections will refer to the policy measures, the examples of practice and research in the area of the social inclusion of young people.


Information sheets on social inclusion, drafted by the national EKCYP-correspondents

Disclaimer : The EU-CoE youth partnership does not take any responsibility for the information contained in the country sheets. The information provided in this section is delivered by the national EKCYP-correspondents. The EU-CoE youth partnership is not responsible for the completeness of the information provided here.