Definition of Youth

According to the 2007 report Youth Policy in the Netherlands, the term youth is applied to children and young people from 0 to 24 years of age.


Marriageable Age

  • Opposite Sex
  • Same Sex
  • Without parental consent
  • with parental consent
  • Male
  • 18
  • 16
  • 18
  • Female
  • 18
  • 16
  • 18

  • Same-sex marriage legal. Source: UNSD, ILGA

Candidacy Age

Criminal Responsibility

Minimum Age
Source:  Government of the Netherlands

Voting Age


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 %
  • 89.64%Male %
  • 90.82% 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 the Netherlands is undergoing a shift. A 2011 review and 2012 briefing explain.

Youth Policy in the Netherlands (2007) by the Netherlands Youth Institute describes the multi-sectoral approach of youth policy in areas of family policy & child protection, health, education & leisure and employment. The Ministry for Youth and Families (now the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) is responsible for the coordination of youth-related policies throughout different ministries and at various levels of government.   According to a 2012 report by the same institute, Dutch youth policy is shifting from a problem-focused (negative) approach to one that is development-oriented and demand-led (positive). As described in a 2011 international review on Dutch youth policies, the aim is to “guide children, youth people and their parents in their opportunities and foster their empowerment”.

Public Institutions

Is there a governmental authority
(ministry, department or office) that is primarily responsible for youth?
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) is the national ministry responsible for coordinating youth-related policies across sectors (ex. health, education and justice). As described in the country sheet on youth policy (2012), the Netherlands is a decentralised unitary state. Provincial and local authorities operate with a degree of autonomy, however cooperate on some initiatives. For example, an online portal for youth (Voor de jeugd) is a joint initiative of the VWS, the Ministry of Security and Justice and an association of Dutch municipalities.

Youth and Representation

Does the country have a national youth organisation / association (council, platform, body)?
The Dutch National Youth Council (NJR) is a peer-led, umbrella organisation for national youth organisations in the Netherlands. Its target age is youth aged 12-30. According to country sheet on youth policy (2012), the council is responsible for improving youth participation at local and national levels, as well as advocating for youth and youth organisations. It was formed in 2001 with financial support from the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport, and currently receives funding from a variety of departments and organisations. The NJR is a member of the European Youth Forum.

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 1.4 million
USD 1.9 million
According to the 2014 State Budget, youth (as a policy item within the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport) has a budget of EUR 1.4 million (USD 1.9 million). According to the World Bank, the Netherlands spent 11.65% of its government expenditure and 5.96% 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 Netherlands (2007):  
In the Netherlands, the term youth is applied to children and young people from 0 up to the age of 24. Approximately one-third of the Dutch population falls into this category, and one in five young people have an ethnic background. As in most other industrialized countries, the proportion of youth in the total population is decreasing.
The vast majority of young people (85%) present no cause for concern: their average level of education is rising, they are healthy and happy, and they get on well with their parents. However, the remaining 15% do need some additional support. A small number of young people (5%) may be said to have serious social and/or psychological problems for which they may use child and youth case services. These services include ambulant care, day care, residential care and foster care, both in youth protection and youth mental health care.
  From Including all children and young people: Moving towards a positive approach in youth policy in the Netherlands (2012):  
[...] Capelle aan den IJssel (66.000 inhabitants) has won the Young Local Award, an encouragement prize for the Dutch municipality that implements positive youth policy the best.
The graffiti walls are an excellent example of the city’s approach to young people. After complaints about perceived graffiti vandalism, the city did not chase the painters away. Instead it worked hard on establishing a good relationship with them. This eventually resulted in the designation of four public areas, frequented by youngsters, as areas for free expression of graffiti art. The painters were involved in the design of the walls, the choice of the right locations and the promotion of the walls among the target group. The placing of the walls lead to a significant decrease of complaints about graffiti vandalism.
  Country Sheet on Youth Policy in the Netherlands (2012):
General youth policy, including non-formal education, general youth services, recreational services and facilities and preventive health care. It also includes access to family support and care coordination (with special focus on parenting support). These services are offered by Youth and Family centres, for which the local authorities are responsible.
The youth care system which covers all forms of care provided to an indicated group of children and adolescents with serious development problems and parents with specific parenting problems, for which the responsibility lies with the provincial authorities. This youth care system focuses on children and young people up to the age of 18 (in some cases this can be extended up to 23 years). There is close cooperation with the schools and local child care services, although they are not formally part of the Dutch youth policy field.
  Repositioning or Shifting Paradigms: An international review on Dutch positive youth policies (2011):  
In the Netherlands, as in Finland, UK and Flanders, youth care was one of the driving forces behind the development of broader social work. For parental support makes it possible to intervene in families whilst maintaining the principle of the family as the primary and unique upbringing environment. The child’s standard development - the health and developmental possibilities, including the possibility to develop as a good citizen - was constituted as the standard against which the need to intervene was assessed. In such an agency-driven approach parents can take advantage of the support and counselling offered by social work, as long as they recognise themselves in the agency’s framework with regard to the upbringing of their children.
During the last decades social work increasingly established its own thresholds, standards and approaches to intervention with little reference to personal, family and community (and indeed economic) circumstances.
So professional procedures and practice took over from the needs of the clients. The control of social work based on these assumptions led to a technicalisation: the emphasis lies on manageability and its optimization. The aim is to “empower” individuals so that they can “handle their own problems”. Social policies make abstraction however of the context in which problems can be dealt with and thus empowerment can be realised. Policy planners think increasingly in terms of standard definitions and packages and subsequently leading parents and families to the standardised and compartmentalised social work offer.