Since youth policy is organised on a municipal level, currently there is no national youth policy - each municipality bases its local youth policy on what is needed and available at the local level. However, on 06 June 2023, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a motion by the Christian Democrats which calls on the government to come up with an integrated youth strategy. It is unclear what impact the November 2023 election results will have on this issue.

Published on October 25, 2023
Updated on February 20, 2024

Definition of youth

In the Netherlands, according to the EU Youth Wiki, the term "youth" is defined as children and young people from 0 up to 25 years of age. This definition is confirmed by the Netherlands Youth Institute. This period is subdivided into childhood (0-12) and young people (13-25).

Definition 1
0 - 25 years

Source: Dutch Youth Institute 2018

Definition 2

Voting Rights

Majority age
18 years
Voting age
18 years
Criminal responsibility
15 years

Candidacy age

Lower House
18 years
Upper House
18 years
--- (tbc)

Marriage & Gender

Without parental consent
18 years
18 years
With parental consent
16 years
16 years


Is same-sex marriage legalized?


Are other genders recognised?
compulsory medical diagnosis

Policy & Legislation

Is there a national youth policy?

Since youth policy is organised on a municipal level, currently there is no national youth policy - each municipality bases its local youth policy on what is needed and available at the local level. However, on 06 June 2023, the House of Representatives unanimously approved a motion by the Christian Democrats which calls on the government to come up with an integrated youth strategy. The National Youth Council (NJR) is fully in support of this plan and will work with the state secretary in drafting the strategy.

Other universal laws and legal frameworks are in place to protect and support young people: The Youth Act (2015) ensures the availability of youth services on a provincial level and the promotion of youth rights on a municipal level. The Youth Reform Agenda 2023-2028, approved on 19 June 2023, amends some parts of the Youth Act and contains a large package of agreements to improve youth care and make it financially sustainable. The Participation Act (2014) guarantees everybody's right to work and ensures that young people with disabilities can find jobs in a professional working environment. Furthermore, theSocial Support Act (2015) aims to stimulate participation and citizenship.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority that is primarily responsible for youth?

According to the official website of the Government of the Netherlands, youth policy is the responsibility of various institutions:

As the Netherlands is a decentralised unitary state, authorities at the provincial and municipal level assume tasks and responsibilities with a certain degree of autonomy, including general and preventive youth policy and specialised child and youth care.

Youth & Representation

Does the country have a national youth organization or association?

As the Netherlands is a decentralised unitary state, various youth councils exist at the local level. However, theNational Youth Council (NJR) serves as the umbrella organisation of youth councils on a national level, defending the "interests and opportunities of young people in the Netherlands". According to the EU Youth Wiki, It was established in 2001 after an official letter (04 July 2001) from the State Secretary to the House of Representatives, advising this step due to its importance in improving youth participation. The NJR is a full member of the European Youth Forum.

The objective of the National Youth Council is "stimulating and supporting youth participation at all levels of society; ensuring that young people know their strengths, develop them and use them for a better future for themselves and others." It also advises national as well as provincial and local governments and other relevant organisations on youth policy.

Youth work

Is youth work a formally recognised profession?

Although there is no actual law acknowledging youth work as a profession, there are various official reports reflecting on the concept of youth work in the Netherlands.

According to a country report on youth work in the Netherlands, published by the European Commission,

"the three core tasks of professional youth work are recreation, informal education and support. With respect to the latter, there exist three main methodological approaches:

individual coaching of young people, working with groups of young people, and social

activation. There is a wide variety of working forms which tie in with the abovementioned description, including: child work (roughly 4-12 age range), teenager work (roughly 12-15 age range), community school, socio-cultural work, community work, youth participation, street work (i.e. "straathoekwerk") and outreaching youth work (i.e. "ambulant jongerenwerk"). The work is carried out by professionals together with volunteers."

Another report published by the Council of Europe indicates that, although there is no legal basis for social work or youth work as such, youth work in the Netherlands today is mainly associated with professional youth work. According to this report,

"The Netherlands was the first country to open a school for social work (1899) and in the 1970s youth work became more or less a professionalised sector. [É] Since the 1970s youth workers have been trained professionals, thus volunteer youth organisations are no longer at the forefront. They are in the same corner as sport clubs and art activities for youth."

Budget & Spending

Does the national youth policy have a dedicated budget?

The public expenditure dedicated to youth is difficult to determine because four ministries - the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; the Ministry of Justice and Security; the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science; and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment - are jointly in charge of all youth-related policies. The Youth Act, however, places responsibility for support and care with the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport (which directly funds the Child Helpline and offers confidential counselling for youth care clients) and the Ministry of Justice and Security. Municipalities provide funding for other forms of youth support and care. However, the state's budget specifically dedicated to youth remains unclear.

Finally, according to the World Bank, the Netherlands spent 11% of its government expenditure and 5.3% of its GDP on education provision in 2020.

Contextual Figures

Liberal Democracy Index
Youth Progress Index

Economic Indicators

GDP per capita
Human Development Index
Gini coefficient

Additional background

From a November 2023 article from the BBC:   "Veteran anti-Islam populist leader Geert Wilders has won a dramatic victory in the Dutch general election, with almost all votes counted. After 25 years in parliament, his Freedom party (PVV) is set to win 37 seats, well ahead of his nearest rival, a left-wing alliance.   A Wilders victory will send shockwaves around Europe, as the Netherlands is one of the founding members of what became the European Union.   Nationalist and far-right leaders around Europe praised his achievement."   From a July 2023 article from The Guardian:   "Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has announced his resignation and that of his cabinet, citing irreconcilable differences within his four-party coalition about how to control immigration.   The decision on Friday by the Netherlands' longest-serving premier means the country will face a general election later this year for the 150-seat lower house of parliament."   From a July 2023 press release from the Netherlands Youth Institute:   "Organizations in the youth sector are concerned about the progress of the improvement plans for the sector after the fall of the government. They ask the House of Representatives not to put those plans on the list of controversial subjects. These are subjects that the House no longer wants to deal with after a cabinet has fallen.   The municipalities, water boards and provinces sent a joint letter to the Senate and House of Representatives about the possible standstill of policy development after the fall. Among other subjects, they mention the reform of youth care. 'Part of the package of agreements is national legislation,' they write. 'If this legislation is delayed, the shortages in youth care and the waiting lists will increase even faster. That is an irresponsible situation for the young people waiting for care and for municipalities.'"   "Chairman Kimberley Snijders of the National Youth Council (NJR) called on NPO Radio 1 for political parties to talk to young people about the topics they consider important in the upcoming elections. She wants every election program to contain a national youth strategy and that the electoral lists also include people who represent the interests of young people.   The House will decide after the summer which topics are controversial. This will only be discussed by the House when there is a new cabinet."