The bilateral talks on youth policy cooperation are a regular element of the agreement on cooperation on child and youth services between Germany’s Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the All-China Youth Federation of the People’s Republic of China that was signed on 14 September 2006.
During this year’s talks, participants discussed the political developments in the field of child and youth services in both countries, evaluated past projects, and agreed on future activities in the field of youth and expert exchanges.
China’s youth policy priorities
The Chinese representatives also gave a presentation on current priorities and developments in China’s youth policy. Key issues include
- the expansion of non-formal youth education,
- youth and employment, specifically youth entrepreneurship,
- more effective protection of children’s and young people’s interests and rights by, e.g., training more social workers and
- volunteer work in environmental projects and initiatives to support disadvantaged population groups.
Expansion of non-formal youth education
For the All-China Youth Federation (ACYF), non-formal youth education is a major priority area. It complements formal education and school curricula and serves to enhance young people’s ideological and political awareness and teach them social skills. The idea is to assist young people in developing an awareness of their responsibilities to their community and encourage them to help create a cohesive society. The objectives of non-formal and social education are closely aligned with the country’s socioeconomic development and have been regularly adapted ever since the People’s Republic was founded. Current objectives include reviving the teachings and virtues of Confucianism while instilling traditional values more firmly in society, both of which is intended to achieve the ideal of social harmony.
Youth and employment
Many young Chinese find it challenging to enter working life. In rural areas there are insufficient job opportunities, so many young people without qualifications and firm plans for the future head to the cities in search of work. However, unemployment is not just a problem for less qualified young people – university graduates, too, are finding it increasingly hard to get jobs. Despite increasing urbanisation and structural changes in the economy, the cities and labour market are (still) unable to absorb the rising number of graduates. What is more, the education and training system relies very heavily on theory and is failing to impart the skills and qualifications the labour market needs. The Chinese government is hence interested in improving the image of craft-related and technical professions and in increasing the practical value of technical college curricula. Promoting youth entrepreneurship, too, is seen as another effective way to tackle youth unemployment. For this reason, ACYF is giving priority to developing skills training courses, offering mentoring programmes in cooperation with successful entrepreneurs, developing internship schemes in companies, and setting up entrepreneurship centres and providing venture capital.
Protecting children’s and young people’s interests and rights
Another key issue is protecting the interests and rights of children and young people. In 1982 the Constitution was amended and the government given responsibility for promoting the moral, intellectual and physical development of children and young people. In 1991, China passed the country’s first law specifically on youth protection - a major step forward for the protection of children and young people in China. However, there is (so far) no legislation that sanctions an intervention by the government or social workers in the way that parents raise their children. In response to the sharp rise in youth crime in China, in 1999 the country adopted the Juvenile Delinquency Prevention Law. For ACYF, the continued development of existing youth-related legislation and its application in practice is a priority. To offer children and young people in difficult situations a place to turn to, ACYF runs a nationwide helpline (known as 12345). ACYF has also set up child and youth services facilities under a pilot project. The concept of social work is a relatively new one in China and there are plans to expand it, so training social workers is hence a major concern. China currently requires around 100,000 additional social workers.
Volunteering projects and volunteering in general have become considerably more popular in recent years. Today there is more political recognition and support for volunteering; the public, too, is more open to it than previously. According to ACYF, there were 45 million registered volunteers in China in 2014. The Chinese government is increasingly relying on volunteering especially when it comes to social projects and initiatives designed to support disadvantaged population groups, since it believes this drives social development and creates greater social cohesion. Among China’s flagship projects are Go West, an initiative to support development in China’s poorer regions; a project to support the children of migrant workers in cities; one to support children with disabilities; and an initiative for the unemployed young homeless. Another major project is Mother River Protection Operation, an environmental initiative launched in 1999 to raise environmental awareness among young people. Young volunteers plant young trees in river basins, take water samples and collect data to measure river pollution.
In all areas, the use of new media such as chatrooms, miniblogs and the Internet is gaining traction. 80% of China’s 630 million Internet users are young people. The Chinese side reported that young people are also heavily involved in producing online content, much of which is consumed by their peers. In other words, young people play an important role when it comes to providing content for other young people.
Future youth policy cooperation
Besides a mutual exchange of information on current youth policy issues, the talks also involved a fruitful debate on the future activities of the partners. The Chinese side reconfirmed its strong interest in bilateral cooperation with Germany and an intense exchange between experts. The Chinese representatives suggested setting up an online platform for Sino-German youth and expert exchanges. Both sides agreed to continue preparing for a special partner conference in Germany for the organisations working in this field, which will be held to coincide with the ten-year anniversary of bilateral youth policy cooperation in 2016.
Much time was also spent finalising the cooperation projects and priority issues for bilateral cooperation in 2015. According to the bilateral protocol, and in line with IJAB’s portfolio of activities, two expert programmes have been scheduled for 2015, both of which will examine two issues that are equally relevant in both countries:
- A group of Chinese experts will travel to Germany in June. The theme of this trip is ‘Support for disadvantaged children and young people: Training for child and youth services experts’.
- A group of German experts will travel to China in September to work on the integration of young people in society and their transition from school to working life.
Side events: Visits and information events in Bremen
To give the Chinese guests an insight into the realities of child and youth services at the local level, visits were arranged in cooperation with Bremen’s Senate Administration for Labour, Women, Health, Youth and Social Affairs to Lidice Haus and Findorff youth centre. The group discussed a wide range of issues with the experts working for these organisations, such as training for youth centre staff, addressing right-wing extremism, measures to ensure the successful integration of young members of the immigrant community, online services for young people, the function of youth advisory committees and so forth. The Chinese representatives were particularly interested in information on working with parents, since in China, parents are only very rarely involved in child and youth services. The bilateral talks ended with a reception hosted by the Senate Administration at Bremen’s Town Hall.
The outcomes of the expert meeting were documented in a joint set of minutes. The next bilateral talks will take place to coincide with a partner conference to mark the ten-year anniversary of Sino-German youth policy cooperation in March 2016.