A youth development policy or strategy (YDP or YDS) is a holistic, positive, non-political policy document that sets out a government’s long-term investment priorities and a society’s goals related to youth. It is a framework that fosters strategic direction, consistency, and accountability in implementing measures related to youth.

A YDP or YDS is commonly misunderstood as a laundry list of measures pertaining to youth, but it should do more than this. It should provide all stakeholders with a holistic framework, based on a unifying vision, for determining all actions related to youth.

Hong Kong does not a YDP or YDS as of now. In 1989, the Central Committee on Youth recommended the colonial government to formulate a youth policy, but then Governor Wilson rejected its recommendation, instead setting up a Commission on Youth (CoY) to advise the government on all matters pertaining on youth. Read more about Hong Kong’s history here.

However, the former Chief Executive in his 2016 Policy Address invited the CoY to put forward proposals on the future direction of a YDP.

The importance of having such a policy or strategy was echoed by the current Chief Executive in her election manifesto. She further noted in her 2017 Policy Address that the Youth Development Commission (YDC) would be established as a high-level coordinating government structure in early 2018, and chaired by the Chief Secretary of Administration, to steer the direction for youth development and enhance coordination among bureaux and departments.

So Hong Kong is not far from having its first YDP or YDS! Watch this space for updates.

It offers a central vision for all stakeholders in youth development that balances the needs and concerns of young people today and the best interests of Hong Kong as a whole.

It provides a frame of reference for policy-making that cuts across sectors and breaks silos.

It shows that the Government invests in the future through caring about young people. A YDP envisions success that is achievable for every young person out there, and maps the way for applying the diverse talents of youth to build a more prosperous, equitable and inclusive Hong Kong. Read more here

If implemented by a high-level coordinating body (that is, the YDC), a YDP can engender a “Youth Perspective” in all levels of Government and in all stakeholders’ actions. A YDP or YDS plays an indispensable role in informing the YDC’s mandate, while the YDC can take forward initiatives in the YDP or YDS. The two must go hand in hand for youth development to flourish and succeed.

Many countries and regions have a youth development policy or strategy, included United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Québec (province of Canada), and Macau (SAR of China). Based on these examples, elements commonly found include: an overarching vision, an analysis of the current situation of youth, a review of existing measures pertaining to youth, stakeholders’ views and future policy directions. Read more here.

  • For young people. The general age bracket is 15 and 24 years of age, but there should be no fixed age-group. Youth is a fluid concept and the appropriate age bracket shifts according to the context of discussion. For matters such as sexual and relationship well-being, policy intervention should come into play before the age of 15. Financial independence may be moot for most young people who are still in school, but relevant to those who are above the age of 24.

  • For the people and communities surrounding young people, and stakeholders with a vested interest in youth development. This includes parents, families, caretakers, teachers, principals, social workers, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), employers, businesses working with young people, and children.

  • For the Government. The Government has many measures benefiting young people. A YDP or YDS represents an attempt to identify and make visible governmental support for youth as a distinct group.

  • For you and me, and the society. If young people are given the right opportunities, environment, support and access to resources, they can realise their full potential to create fulfilling lives for themselves and build a better future together as citizens of Hong Kong. Through engaging them as active members of the community and removing the barriers that might have hindered the effective participation of some, a YDP or YDS seeks to build a more equitable and inclusive society and paves the way for Hong Kong’s long-term sustainable development. It is as much a policy for young people as it is for the society as a whole.

  • Research. It should be based on an analysis of the status quo of young people in Hong Kong. It should also take into account existing measures and policies for youth, governmental and non-governmental. International literature on youth development, as well as policies overseas insofar as they are relevant to the socioeconomic circumstances of Hong Kong, are valuable reference materials.

  • Engagement. It should be based on extensive public engagements that represent diverse and authentic youth voices. It should also be based on the views of stakeholders in youth development, including teachers, principals, parents, employers, social workers, NGOs, and representatives from other groups and sectors.

Engagement exercises followed three principles:

  • Reach out to as many youngsters as possible;
  • Engage youth of diverse backgrounds and characteristics; and
  • For specific areas, hold focused discussions with subject experts and relevant youth.

Through 40 focus group discussions, more than 800 youngsters, and relevant individuals and organisations were engaged. Youths came from diverse backgrounds and included secondary and university students, ethnic minorities, disabled youths, disengaged youths, sexual minors, so on and so forth.

While keeping the agenda open, engagement sessions aimed to seek youngsters’ views on six broad areas including education, work, health and wellbeing, whole person development, citizenship and civic participation, as well as creating equal opportunities for all youth. Youngsters were asked about their real-life experiences and expectations in these areas, as well as suggestions for improvement. See our photos here

To achieve the vision of enabling youth to realise their full potentials, creating fulfilling lives for themselves and a better Hong Kong, the YDP or YDS focuses on six strategic areas. Read more here

  • In Education, young people should be inspired to become lifelong learners.
  • In Work, youth should have a smooth transition from school or training to employment or entrepreneurship.
  • In Health and Wellbeing, youth should build up lifelong resilience and positive mental health.
  • In Whole Person Development, youth should be supported to become active citizens of Hong Kong and the world.
  • In Civic Participation, youth should be empowered to participate constructively in civic affairs.
  • In Equal Opportunities, youth that are vulnerable or disadvantaged (including youth-at-risk, disabled youth, ethnic minorities and sexual minorities) should have targeted support.