Definition of Youth

According to a report drafted by the Belgian EU Presidency in 2010, the Flemish and French Communities define youth as 0 to 30 years old.  The German-Speaking Community refers to an age group between 12 and 26 years old in its youth work legislation.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • --
  • 18
  • Female
  • 18
  • --
  • 18

  • The juvenile court may waive the age limit for marriage for serious reasons. Same sex marriage is legal. Source: Portail, UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Juvenile Justice Law of Belgium

Majority Age


Voting Age


Compulsory voting.
Source:  Inter-Parliamentary Union

Situation of Young People

Literacy Rates

Both sexes (15-24) %
  • -- Male (15-24) %
  • -- Female (15-24) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: UNESCO

Net Enrolment Rate

Secondary School
Both sexes %
  • 87.13%Male %
  • 84.14% Female %

Situation of Young People

Prevalence of HIV

Male (15-24) %
Female (15-24) %

Tobacco Use

Consumed any smokeless or smoking tobacco product at least once 30 days prior to the survey.
Both sexes (13-15) %
  • -- Male (13-15) %
  • -- Female (13-15) %
  • Year: No data.
  • Source: WHO

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?
Youth Policy in Belgium is regionally organised, a briefing explains how. A review was conducted in 2012.

As described in the report drafted by the Belgian EU Presidency in 2010, Belgium has three youth policies (Flemish Community, French Community and German-speaking Community).   The 3rd Flemish Youth Policy Plan includes strategic goals connected to the European Youth Strategy 2010-2018, grouped in areas such as participation & information, education and employment. According to a 2012 Council of Europe report, the French Community is undergoing a reform of youth policy and preparing an integrated “Youth Plan”. Currently it has decrees for the implementation of youth policy at the local level, such as youth centres and youth organisations. The approach of youth policy in the German-speaking community is also cross-sectoral, with a large focus on youth work, rather than a singular comprehensive policy.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Agency for Socio-Cultural Work for Youth and Adults in the Ministry of Culture, Youth Sports and Media is responsible for the coordination of youth and children’s policy in the Flemish Community. For the French Community, youth falls under Youth Service in the Ministry for Culture, promoting participation and citizenship, as well as providing support to youth organisations and centres. The Ministry for Culture, Media and Tourism for the German-Speaking Community contains a Youth Affairs office, providing support for youth work and running youth centres.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
According to the Flemish Youth Council is an official advisory body that defends the interests of youth in Flanders.  The Youth Council of the French Community has a similar role, and lobbies the government through the issuance of “official notices” stating its policy positions.  The Council of German-Speaking Youth is a federation of youth organisations and local youth councils, and like the Flemish and French youth councils, is governed by a General Assembly comprised of young people.

Budget & Spending

What is the budget allocated to the governmental authority (ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth and/or youth programming?
EUR 109 million
USD 150 million
The Flemish Agency for Socio-Cultural Work for Youth and Adults budget for 2013 was EUR 70.7 million (USD 97.4 million). For the French Community, the budget for youth within the Ministry for Culture was EUR 33 million (USD 45.5 million). For the German-speaking Community, the budget in 2013 for youth within their Ministry for Culture, Media and Tourism was EUR 5 million (USD 6.9 million). According to the World Bank, Belgium spent 12.47% of its government expenditure and 6.57% of its GDP on education provision in 2010.
Total Expenditure on Education as a Percentage of Government Spending and GDP

  • % of GDP
  • % of gov. expenditure

Source: World Bank
Gaps indicate missing data from the original data source. (Accessed August 2013).

Additional Background

From Youth Policy in the three communities of Belgium (2010):

Belgium is a federal state, consisting of 3 Communities (the Flemish Community, the French Community and the German-Speaking Community) and 3 Regions (the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Brussels Capital Region). There is NO hierarchy between the federal, the Community and the Regional levels [...]

Each entity has its specific area of responsibility. The federal level has the competence on important policy fields such as justice, social security, employment and tax legislation. The responsibilities of the Region are linked to its “territory” and include environment, agriculture, urban planning, housing,... The competences of the Communities are “person-related” matters such as Education, Health care, Culture, Youth [...]

The federal ‘Belgian’ level of government only has limited competence in youth matters (e.g. some aspects of judicial youth protection), but there is no youth policy at the Belgian level. The Communities are competent for youth and youth policy, so it is on this level that most explicit ‘youth policy instruments’ can be found.

The Communities have a minister responsible for Youth, a parliamentary commission and a number of administrative departments with ‘youth’ in their title and a large number of specific youth-related budget items. Given the fact that every Community has its own Minister for Youth, this means Belgium has three.

From ‘C’est plus compliqué que ça’: A review of youth policy in Belgium by the international team of the Council of Europe (2012):

In the case of Belgium, the internal priorities identified were as follows:

In the Flemish Community:

  • The divide in the level of schooling which causes a political and socio-economic dichotomy
  • The ideological and cultural divide which makes that (still) some target groups are not reached: does multiculturalism work?
  • The role of the government/public authorities: up to what extend [sic] should it be steering; what is it the citizen can and/or should expect? The positioning of Youth Work in society?

In the French-speaking Community:

  • The Youth Policy Plan is currently in preparation in the French-speaking Community. The process is already engaged and will continue during 2011 at least. The Cabinet of the Minister for Youth would like to get feedback, comments and suggestions on the methodology, the content, the process on the way.

In the German-speaking Community:

  • Development of flexible instruments and methods, enabling a comprehensive and quality youth policy, based on knowledge and information - therefore:
  • Two main projects of the actual youth policy: a) reform of formation and training (in youth work) of young people, youth workers, youth leaders and b) creation of a new framework for/of youth policy.

Both should be reached by:

  • The new funding decree for youth work. This decree will start in 2012. It will allow a better transversal approach in order to respect in a more holistic way young people’s life, enhance participation of young people and participation of the youth sector in the design and in the implementation of youth work, allow evaluation on the basis of quality and not only on the basis of quantity, reinforce the participation of the municipalities in design and implementation of youth policy.