Young people have been hit hard by the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis and have expressed concerns over its long-term implications, including on satisfaction with democracy and intergenerational justice. In response, by the end of 2021, at least 34 OECD countries had presented government-wide response and recovery plans; of these, 29 include specific commitments on young people. Some 10 OECD countries have set out how young people have been consulted in the formulation of their plans, but only eight have stated how they will engage young people in implementing their national response and recovery plans. This case study shows how systematic governance changes and innovation in public administration are required to incorporate young people’s perspectives and longer-term considerations into policymaking. The case study draws on the OECD policy paper, ‘Delivering for youth: How governments can put young people at the centre of the recovery’.
Several factors enable successful incorporation of young people’s perspectives into policymaking:
Adequate administrative and institutional capacities, as well as innovative public administration tools, to mainstream the perspectives of young people across policy and service areas.
Measures to strengthen the participation and representation of young people and youth stakeholders in public and political life.
Holistic, cross-sectoral and coordinated youth strategies to unite various governmental and non-governmental stakeholders behind a joint vision and strategy.
Various indicators have shown that young people have been hit hard by the economic and social consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. As a result, they are expressing increasing concerns over its long-term implications, including over satisfaction with democracy and intergenerational justice.
During the pandemic, emergency regulations limited the opportunities for stakeholder participation in decision making. Among a (non-representative) sample of 100 youth organisations based in 36 OECD countries surveyed by the OECD, only 15% felt their government were considering young people’s views when adopting lockdown and confinement measures. Furthermore, only 33% of the organisations who responded were satisfied with how governments had collaborated with institutions and civil society organisations to mitigate the effects of the crisis.
By the end of 2021, in response to the crisis, at least 34 OECD countries had presented government-wide response and recovery plans to address the complex economic, environmental and social impacts of the pandemic. Of OECD countries with a comparable national response and recovery plan in place, 29 of 32 included policies, programmes or other commitments specifically aimed at young people. Some 10 OECD countries have set out how young people were consulted during the process; for example in Australia, Austria, Estonia, Lithuania and the Slovak Republic, public consultations included youth organisations as key stakeholders.
In Austria, consultations were held with representatives of federal states, cities, municipalities, social partners, NGOs, youth organisations and other relevant civil society stakeholders. Each measure proposed by civil society organisations – including those from youth organisations – was set out in a spreadsheet, showing the commitments for different sectors and groups, including for young people and future generations. In Australia, a list of those youth organisations that had provided feedback on the 2021-22 budget priorities is publicly available. In addition, non-confidential submissions – including those of youth organisations – were made accessible online. Estonia included its National Youth Council as a key partner in the consultations that led up to the creation of its response and recovery plan. In Mexico, the Institute of Youth (IMJUVE), the Ministry of Health and the Population Council surveyed more than 50,000 young people on the topics of education, employment, health, violence and resilience. The evidence gathered was used to create the VoCEs-19 report. This in turn informed the design, implementation and analysis of public policies at a sectoral level, which are responsive to social sensitivity and the needs of young people.
Almost all of the youth organisations surveyed by the OECD during July and August 2021 were engaged in addressing the effects of the pandemic. Notwithstanding these youth-led efforts, by the end of 2021 only eight OECD countries had stated in their national response and recovery plans how they would engage young people in implementing the commitments that were relevant to them. Most frequently, the plans envisaged having young people and their organisations running digital campaigns, providing mental health support and delivering education and employment programmes.
National COVID-19 response and recovery plans have developed cross-governmental, long-term strategies to address the complex economic, environmental and social effects of the pandemic, involving the mobilisation of large amounts of public resources. All the recovery plans that benefitted from consulting with youth organisations or young people included commitments to youth, along with budget dedicated to implementing them. However, despite significant efforts by some countries to identify innovative ways of incorporating young people’s perspectives and longer-term considerations into the recovery, public administration requires further systematic changes and innovation to address existing and future societal and economic challenges.