Quotas for Youth in the Parliament


The world is home to 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10-24 – the largest generation of youth in history (1). Nonetheless, this large proportion of the population is significantly underrepresented and thus is not taken into account as part of the policy making process.

People in political decision-making across the globe tend to be much older than the average voter (2). According to data from the OECD, in 2020, only 22% of members of parliaments (MPs) were under the age of 40 (3). Other research has shown that the percentage of MPs younger than 30 in the national parliaments of OECD countries is higher than 2% only in exceptional cases. In comparison, 20-39 years old represent 34% of the voting-age population on average across all OECD countries (4).

In some cases, namely Italy, Finland and Norway, the share of young MPs is larger than the share of young people in the voting-age population. It could be argued that this could be due to the current ageing demographics of these countries, rather than any real inclusion of the youth.

As a consequence of this lack of representation, the youth has long felt excluded from politics, leading to general disengagement and distrust regarding the public institutions. All of these factors act as clear deterrents to the functioning of a healthy, democratic system that represents the population as a whole. With our proposal, we aim to effectively tackle the issue in a practical way, while also considering its viability for the different cultures and political systems throughout the globe.


We propose the implementation of youth quotas in Parliaments as a way to improve youth representation in the country. We aim for this measure to attain a more inclusive representation of the demographics of each country, taking into account the intersectional nature of all population groups. Youth quotas can assure that younger generations partake in political discussions even in cases when they do not make up a large part of the country’s demographics. In European and Western countries, the ageing demographics further reinforce the need for young representation. As the population ages, older generations hold more political power for the simple fact that they are more numerous. Nonetheless, Youth Quotas should not be applied only in countries with ageing populations, since inclusion of the youth in the decision making process must be guaranteed independently of the demographics of the country or territory.

When discussing the youth quotas, an inevitable question pops up: what age should be considered “young” in politics? Many United Nations Bodies define youth as individuals aged 15–24. But since young people rarely gain office before the age of 35, an age threshold of 40–45 years has become common in defining MPs as young. However, the whole point of this proposal is lowering this threshold. Therefore, the youth quotas should only include people under 35 years of age (5). To build upon this proposal we suggest three practical solutions:

  • Legal candidate quotas (constitutional and/or legislative): young candidates should be included in the lists of all political parties. The implementation of this measure needs to take into account the elective system of each country, because its impact hinges on the condition that youth representatives are placed in electable positions within their lists. In the case of closed-list proportional representation, it should be specified that the youth be included in the top positions of the list (6)
  • Reserved seats in parliaments (constitutional and/or legislative): This measure should go hand-in-hand with the former, to avoid the reserved seats from being left with no representatives as a consequence of parties refusing to include young candidates on their lists.
  • Voluntary political party quotas: It has been brought up that voluntary quotas risk being ineffective. It is then necessary to carefully consider the adequacy of this option for each particular context.

As youth quotas are a relatively new form of intervention, research conducted on the implementation of gender quotas are an informative source for the success of political quotas over the long term. Adaptation of existing measures that were put in place for the implementation of gender quotas could become the starting point for youth quotas.

The dynamics of political transition have been shown to be a particularly favourable environment for the adoption of electoral quotas (7) (for example, during the creation of new electoral laws). There are, however, some risks to be taken into account. In countries where youth quotas have been implemented after a citizen revolution, it has been observed that a significant part of the young population perceived the political youth organisations as elitist. Consequently, the youth who effectuated the revolution did not feel represented by the appointed younger politicians who occupied the roles established by the quotas.

Therefore, it is necessary to accompany this measure with the implementation of a strong political education –we will come back to this topic when discussing the Education of Young Voters and Lowering the Voting Age to 16– along with the creation of spaces that encourage participation of people from different backgrounds, to avoid the lack of diversity within youth representation. These propositions can also serve as a means to nurture new political leaders. Additionally, we propose to establish a new department on Participation and Inclusion within the UN that will serve as a platform for discussion and exchange of best practices relating to the implementation of Youth Quotas. This department would act as a reference for states seeking guidance on how to avoid tokenism in their Youth Quotas.

Acknowledging that young people are a heterogeneous group is key for the success of this initiative, and the circumstances and diversity within each country should be taken into account when designing the pertinent reforms.


The inclusion of youth in parliaments is an empowering measure that ensures their voice is always taken into account. Not only that, it also acts as an awakening call to tackle pressing issues that especially affect the youth, and that are not given the importance they deserve by already existing policies or institutions, such as climate change, education, employment or housing.

Proportional representation leads to higher voter turnout due to the building of trust in the democratic system and institutions among young people. The enhancement and empowerment of young political referents is also a helpful tool to increase engagement in politics among youth.

As it has been discussed in the former section, the ageing demographics in Western countries plays an important role in youth representation. The implementation of this proposal would result in more youth-friendly policies, which would, in turn, create a more favourable, stable environment for young people. This measure could therefore have a beneficial impact regarding the ageing of the population in these countries.

The inclusion of youth in parliaments will foster a sense of inclusion and representation among that slice of the population. Moreover, it could become a catalysing force to change a state’s political culture, render public institutions more inclusive, and, overall, strengthen democratisation.

  1. Stockemer, Daniel, and Aksel Sundström. 2023. “Age Inequalities in Political Representation: A Review Article.” Government and Opposition: 1–18. doi: 10.1017/gov.2023.11.
  2. United Nations. “Youth in Action.” https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/youth-in-action (November 22, 2023).
  3. Joerg Chet Tremmel, 2006. “Establishing intergenerational justice in national constitutions,” Chapters, in: Joerg Chet Tremmel (ed.),Handbook of Intergenerational Justice, chapter 10, Edward Elgar Publishing. https://ideas.repec.org/h/elg/eechap/4218_10.html
  4. OECD (2021), Government at a Glance 2021, Chapter in: Youth representation in politics. OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/1c258f55-en.
  5. Jana Belschner (2021) The adoption of youth quotas after the Arab uprisings, Politics, Groups, and Identities, 9:1, 151-169, DOI: 10.1080/21565503.2018.1528163
  6. ACE project. “Youth and Elections.” https://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/yt/yt20/quotas-for-youth (November 22, 2023).
  7. Jana Belschner (2021) The adoption of youth quotas after the Arab uprisings, Politics, Groups, and Identities, 9:1, 151-169, DOI: 10.1080/21565503.2018.1528163