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On Thursday, the Riigikogu deliberated the Youth Development Plan 2014-2020 as a matter of significant national importance. The state is aiming to involve 7-26 year old young people more into the life of society and to develop youth work in order that they would have wider opportunities for development and self-actualisation as full-fledged members of the society.

The Chairman of the Cultural Affairs Committee Lauri Luik stressed in his report that greater involvement of young people in the decision-making processes of the society is very important, and the reduction of the voting age to 16 for local government elections needs to be considered.

“The reduction of the voting age to 16 for local elections is one possibility how young people could have more say in important social issues,” Luik said. The Minister of Education and Research Jevgeni Ossinovski and the Chairman of the Board of the Estonian National Youth Council Reet Sillavee also supported this idea.

Luik noted that the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu had discussed the issues of the field of youth work on three occasions this year, and gave an overview of the issues of education, entry of young people into the labour market, problematic young people and youth work. “Healthy lifestyle, good upbringing and a competitive education which meets the expectations of the labour market are the most important factors for a young person to successfully develop into a full-fledged member of the society,” Luik said.

In his report, Jevgeni Ossinovski described the plans for the implementation of the development plan. “The primary objective is to create more opportunities and options for young people to open their creative and development potential,” Ossinovski said. In his words, the Ministry of Education and Research is designing a concept of supporting youth work and hobby education for different target groups, instead of “hobby group funds”. “We have set a goal that, in 2020, 60% of young people would permanently participate in youth work,” Ossinovski said. As other important objectives, Ossinovski highlighted the reduction of the risk of exclusion of young people, the involvement of young people in decisions, and the evaluation of the quality of youth work. Also, the development of a system of youth studies, and the offering of training opportunities to workers in that field.

In her report, Reet Sillavee attached importance to supporting the initiatives that develop the creativity and independent thinking of young people and participation of young people. In Sillavee’s opinion, a majority of youth councils tend to remain weak in standing for the interests of young people in local governments. One issue of concern to Sillavee was the sustainability and financing of young people’s associations which has been staying at the same level for several years. Sillavee also discussed the problems of the young people excluded from society, or NEET Youth. “Besides dealing with NEET young people, more stress must be laid on prevention activities which would reduce the risks of young people falling into the category of NEET young people,” Sillavee said.

Sillavee also gave an overview of Youth Participation Café conversations on the entry into the labour market that had taken place in autumn 2013 all over Estonia. “Schools could more frequently organise educational visits to businesses and work and education fairs, such as “Teeviit” (Road Sign), and offer opportunities to participate in work and student shadow days. Definitely, high-quality careers education should also reach schools,” Sillavee said.

There are circa 290 000 young people of 7-26 years of age in Estonia today, which constitutes 22,4% per cent of the population. The proportion of young people in the society is falling.

Kalle Palling, Barbi Pilvre, Liisa Pakosta and Mailis Reps took the floor during the debate on the development plan.

Photos of the sitting 

The verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian) 

The Riigikogu Press Service