The Dutch National Youth Council (NJR) has analysed the youth committees and their accessibility. More than 900 young committee members were questioned and almost 60 percent indicated that, within their own organisation, the interest in committee work had declined over the last five years.
This is a problematic development according to the NJR, because it means the future of these societies is uncertain. High student debt and the pressure to graduate quickly were the main reasons given by those questioned for the lack of interest. “People want to get their degrees as quickly as possible and then find jobs; this pressure should be reduced so that everyone has more time to develop themselves,” according to one respondent.
On average, the young people questioned spent 43 hours doing their jobs on the side, studying and undertaking committee work. They are finding it increasingly difficult to combine everything. On committee work alone, they spend 27.1 hours a week, according to the NJR.
To make ends meet financially, this group is largely dependent on DUO (62 percent) and their parents (43 percent). Full-time committee members are even more vulnerable financially. Three quarters of them are supported by a loan from DUO and almost half could not manage without a contribution from their parents.
“Nowadays, doing committee work as well as your programme is virtually impossible,” argued Luce van Kempen, the Chair of the NJR. She fears that in future it will mainly be young people from affluent backgrounds who are able to take on committee work. “We can already see that parental wealth is becoming increasingly important. If we want our future leaders to come from every strata of the population and not merely from a small elite, then we must act quickly.”
How can you ensure that committee work is accessible to everyone? According to the respondents, there should be both more and higher student grants and committee members should receive some form of compensation. In addition, there are several ways in which programmes could be better linked to committee work. As an example, the respondents mention compensation through exemption or study points. Finally, better information could potentially enthuse a new generation of committee members.