Contemporary issues in youth policy
As an area of youth policy, gender equality relates to measures that aim to reduce gender-based discrimination, and ensuring that young people of all genders enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including participation in economic life, and political participation.
Gender equality is a transversal issue within youth policy, meaning that it cuts across all other domains of youth policy, such as health, education, and employment. However, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality, the integration of gender concerns in youth policy is increasing, yet most research and policy lack an explicit and clear gender perspective.
Many young people in Europe experience challenges that prevent them from accessing opportunities equally, and in some cases, these challenges are gender-specific. Consider for example:
- The economic crisis in the EU since 2008 has worsened labour market conditions more for young men (15- to 24-years-old) than for young women, where the employment rate between 2008 and 2014 declined by around 5.9% for young men vs. 3.8% for young women;
- Young women 20- to 24-years-old completed tertiary education in larger numbers (82.4%) than young men (76.7%) in 2011, but only 20% of women graduated from Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) fields compared to 80% men;
- In 2018, young women are more exposed (28%) to physical and/or sexual violence by non-partners than older women (22%), and young women are more exposed to cyberbullying than young men (by message, 12% for girls versus 7% for boys);
- In 2018, 18% of young men aged 16-24 posted opinions on civic or political issues online, compared to 14% of young women;
While policy interventions traditionally focus on achieving equality between men and women, such as the gender equality strategies of the Council of Europe and the European Commission, ensuring access to rights and reducing discrimination of non-binary and LGBTQI+ people is of increasing focus for policy, especially for young people.LGBTQI is a common abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex people. The ‘+’ in the definition refers to further categories, and alludes to the right of each individual to define themselves according to one’s preferences, or lack thereof.
Gender mainstreaming or gender-sensitive approaches can therefore be incorporated into all policies (including youth policy) at all levels and stages, and is the “systematic consideration of the differences between conditions, situations and needs of women and men [and the recognition] that women and men have to be equally involved in setting goals and elaborating strategies”.
The 2016 Council of Europe recommendation on young people's access to rights calls on member states to adopt a human rights based approach to improve young people’s access to rights that reflects the principles of gender equality
Council of Europe: Recommendation CM/Rec (2016)7 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on young people's access to rights.
This page was last updated by Cristina Bacalso and Dan Moxon in December 2018.
Youth Goal #2 “Equality of all genders”, calls for Europe to:
Ensure equality of all genders and gender sensitive approaches in all areas of life of a young person.
The goal identifies that “gender-based discrimination still affects many young people, especially young women. Equal opportunities and access to rights need to be ensured for young people of all genders including non-binary and LGBTQI+ young people.”