What is it?

Youth work has three essential features:

  • Young people choose to participate
  • The work takes place where the young people are
  • It recognises that the young person and the youth worker are partners in a learning process

Youth work encompasses a broad range of activities (eg social, cultural, educational, sports-related and political) carried out with, by and for young people through non-formal and informal learning. Its value is recognised in the Council conclusions on youth work and highlighted in a study released in 2014.

What are the aims?

Youth work helps young people to reach their full potential. It encourages personal development, autonomy, initiative and participation in society.

Who is involved?

Youth work provides out-of-school education, as well as leisure activities managed by professional or voluntary youth workers and youth leaders.

It is organised in different ways – through youth-led organisations, organisations for youth, informal groups or youth services and public authorities.

How does it happen?

Youth work is delivered in different forms and settings (eg open-access, group-based, programme-based, outreach, and detached) at local, regional, national, and European level.

Its effectiveness has led to an increasing number of organisations – such as those working in youth justice and health improvement – to develop a youth work approach. This enables young people who might otherwise be alienated from support to get the services they need.

What is the EU doing?

Under the European Union Work Plan for Youth (2016-2018), expert groups will look into the following subjects:
  • Defining the specific contribution of youth work as well as non-formal and informal learning to: 
    • foster active citizenship and participation of young people in diverse and tolerant societies as well as preventing marginalisation, and radicalisation potentially resulting in violent behaviour;
    • respond to the opportunities and challenges raised by the increasing numbers of young migrants and refugees in the European Union.
  • Addressing the risks, opportunities, and implications of digitalization for youth, youth work and youth policy.
Expert groups set up under the EU Work Plan for Youth (2014-2015) dealt with the following subjects:
  • Youth work quality systems in EU Member States and the role of common indicators or frameworks
  • Specific contribution of youth work to address the challenges young people are facing, in particular the transition from education to employment
The Youth Wiki contains a wealth of information on youth work, namely in the following sections: 
1.7 Funding youth policy; 
4.7 Youth work to foster social inclusion; 
5.6 Supporting youth organisations; 
5.7 ‘Learning to participate’ through formal, non-formal and informal learning; 
6.4 Validation of non-formal and informal learning; 
6.9 Awareness-raising about non-formal and informal learning and quality youth work; and 
9.6 Intercontinental youth work and development cooperation.