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A2V Early Findings - Europe part 1, Defining Youth

As part of our Access to Volunteering project we have been looking at what the current situation is in each of the 4 countries and on the European level. Ahead of pulling the full report together we're sharing what we've found so far, starting with a multi-part series about volunteering accessibility in Europe

Image 1. (Defining Youth in Contemporary National Legal and Policy Frameworks Across Europe – p. 8)

Part 1: What Does ”Youth” Mean at the European level?

To meaningfully contribute to the discussion about access to volunteering for young people with disabilities in Europe, we need to have an idea of what youth refers to at a European level, which can be confusing because multiple definitions are used between and within countries.

Mostly, youth is defined as “the passage from a dependent childhood to independent adulthood” when young people are in transition between a world of rather secure development to a world of choice and risk (Eurostat 2009: p. 17). Young people are certainly in a specific social position since they are not entitled to child benefits and protection any more, but need additional care since they still do not enjoy all the possibilities and opportunities available to adults. There is wide consensus among European youth researchers that existing youth definitions and concepts are becoming more and more blurred as a result of the de-standardisation of 3 life trajectories. Not only does youth tend to start earlier and end later, but the transitions from childhood into adulthood are increasingly fragmented which is particularly visible through increasing discrepancies between different policy areas (Council of Europe International Review Team 2008: p. 17).

According to Defining Youth in Contemporary National Legal and Policy Frameworks Across Europe (p. 3) there are six groups of current solutions namely age definitions, presented below:

1. 14/15/16 and 29/30 years — predominant European model followed by: Andorra, Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Denmark, Georgia, Italy, Lithuania, Hungary, Moldova, Germany, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Serbia, Turkey, Croatia, Montenegro, Czech Republic and Spain;

2. 13/15/16 and 24/25 years — shortened youth age model followed by: Ireland, Latvia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Switzerland and Sweden;

3. 12/13 and 30 years — start earlier and end later youth age model followed by: United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway and Portugal;

4. 12/14/15/16 and 32/35 years — prolonged youth age model followed by: Greece, Cyprus, Romania, San Marino and Ukraine;

5. 3/6/7 and 25/26/30 years — youth age model comprising also childhood age followed by: France, Estonia and Iceland;

6. 0 and 25/29/30 years — children and youth merging model followed by: Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Slovak Republic, Finland and the Netherlands.

What do these trends tell us? There is a consensus that youth includes teens, and lasts at least until the age of 25. The main points of difference are whether children should be included in the category of youth, and whether the upper limit should be around 25, around 30, or even higher. The trend in Europe seems to be towards an upper limit of at least 30, perhaps related to people being in education and training for longer, and forming families later.

This series will continue with a look at disability and youth in Europe in Part 2

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