Report: Youth and Public Policy in Estonia

This audit, published in 2013 with the generous support of the Open Society Foundations, evaluates the impact of public policies on young people in Estonia, analysing not only specific youth policies, but the wider policy dossiers affecting young peoples’ lives and rights. It is part of a pilot series of six audits reviewing public policies affecting young people in the following countries: Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Serbia, and Uganda.

CONTEXT OF THE YOUTH POLICY REVIEWS

This audit, published in 2013 with the generous support of the Open Society Foundations, evaluates the impact of public policies on young people in Estonia, analysing not only specific youth policies, but the wider policy dossiers affecting young peoples’ lives and rights.

It is part of a pilot series of six audit reports reviewing public policies affecting young people in the following countries: Estonia, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Nepal, Serbia, and Uganda. The pilot project consisted of research teams on the ground to conduct analyses based on a specially developed evaluation matrix, assisted and supported in the research process by international advisors. An International Editorial Board supervised and evaluated the pilot process.

The Open Society Youth Initiative provided funding for the pilot project. The Youth Initiative supports young people in their efforts to be agents of positive change and advocates for the full and effective participation of all young people in the political, social, and cultural life of their communities.

OBJECTIVES OF THE YOUTH POLICY REVIEWSReview_Estonia_Cover_Full

The pilot project had the following objectives:

  • To review public policies pertaining to youth (including, but not exclusively, specific youth policies) in several countries using the draft evaluation matrix specifically developed for the purpose.
  • To make available research that will allow young people to engage in an informed debate on the public policies affecting them and their communities in the countries concerned.
  • To build a pool of young researchers capable of evaluating policies pertaining to youth, including specific youth policies.
  • To contribute to building the capacity of the youth sector in the countries concerned to research public policy issues.
  • To develop the evidence base for pilot advocacy activities in cooperation with the Open Society Youth Initiative and other partners.
  • To broaden the scope of the international youth sector to include general policies pertaining to youth that go beyond specific youth policies.
  • To develop the capacity of the international youth sector and its partners and networks for evidence-based strategy development for young people and their issues.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE ESTONIAN REVIEW

 

Estonia, with its eventful recent history and the presence of a significant Russian-speaking minority, is an ageing society: In 2011, young people between 7 and 26 years of age made up 22 percent of the total Estonian population, a percentage which is going to drop considerably in the coming decades because of a consistently low birth rate and further losses through youth emigration.

There is a wide range of legislative acts and government programs concering young people, using a variety of age brackets and words referring to young people, showcasing that policies pertaining to youth are not rigidly structured across different policy fields. Moreover, consensus exists among all stakeholders that Estonian youth policy must be both horizontal (reflecting different aspects of young people’s lives in connection with all relevant policy fields) and integrated (taking a young person’s actual state, interests, and needs as starting point). Accordingly, Estonian youth is seen as a diverse and heterogeneous population, with different groups having dissimilar needs.

Against this backdrop, a number of gaps in Estonia’s youth policy realities have been identified by this study:

  • Cooperation between different ministries and their subordinate organizations for developing and implementing youth-related policies is predominantly issue- or theme-specific. Although the creation of one central unit (e.g., Ministry of Youth) has never been aspired to, institutionalized and permanent cooperative networks in the youth field (between ministries and other actors) are lacking;
  • Among the different groups within Estonian youth, members of the Russian-speaking minority, LGBT youth, and youth at risk appear to be particularly vulnerable or at least as most likely to be ignored by society and policymakers compared with their peers;
  • At least on the local level, the youth field is one of the most vulnerable areas in budget discussions, which indicates to us that the awareness of the need for youth-sensitive budgeting has yet to be developed among some stakeholders;
  • Young people’s involvement in youth policy is still rather modest. On the one hand, youth are complaining about a lack of genuine openness among decision makers and the fragmented nature of the youth policy system—both can discourage young people from getting involved. On the other hand, policymakers question young people’s ability and willingness to generalize their views to the relevant target groups and to seriously contribute to the decision-making process.

DOWNLOAD THE FULL REPORT AS A PDF

The full audit report can be downloaded as a pdf document here:

English: Youth and Public Policy in Estonia (2 MB, pdf)

THANKS & ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

We extend our thanks to Liisa Müürsepp, Ilona-Evelyn Rannala, Marti Taru, Maarja Toots, Simon Bart, Yael Ohana and Milosz Czerniejewski for their hard work on the report, to all the persons we were able to interview and discuss the situation of young people and the impact of public policies on youth in Estonia, as well as to the teams of the Open Society Youth Initiative, iDebate Press and Demokratie & Dialog.