Earlier this month, Berlin officials announced that young adults between the ages of 18 and 23 can register for the Jugendkulturkarte (Youth Culture Card) program and receive a €50 (~$54) subsidy to use specifically for access to the city’s cultural venues such as theaters, museums, and even nightclubs through the end of April. I was both intrigued by and jealous about the prospect of being paid to bust the hottest moves to a house remix of Dua Lipa’s “Levitating,” and I wanted to know what other nations provided cultural allowances to their youth population. As it turns out, several European countries have their own version of a “culture pass” to inspire appreciation across the arts.
Gaining popularity already, Berlin’s Jugendkulturekarte appears to be partly inspired by Germany’s new Kulturpass, which offers €200 (~$214) to any German resident turning 18 this year in an effort to revitalize both live and material culture experiences after pandemic-related isolation and uncertainty from the Russian war in Ukraine. The Kulturpass was introduced last November, and will be available to approximately 750,000 rising 18-year-olds in 2023. Recipients have two years to use their Kulturpass credits to access theaters, concerts, and museums, or to purchase cultural materials such as books and records. The German government has allotted €100 million for this pilot project and is looking to include youths ages 15 to 17 if the Kulturpass is well received.
Germany’s Kulturpass actually took a leaf from Italy’s book. Since 2016, Italy’s Culture Ministry has been issuing a whopping €500 culture bonus to 18-year-olds through an application called 18app. This year’s recipients have until the end of next April to exhaust their credits on live experiences, material and digital goods, and subscription-based services rooted in the nation’s arts and culture sectors. In the first five days of the 2022 recipient window, 18app recorded over 180,000 users spending over €7.5 million, primarily on books and concerts.
The Italian government stated that the main objective of the program was to dissuade youths from turning to extremism in response to the 2015 terrorist attack that killed 130 patrons at the Bataclan concert hall, cafe, and stadium in Paris. “We’re not funding the Culture Bonus because we’re such a good country,” then member of the Italian Parliament Stefano Dambroso told NPR. “It’s simply in our best interest to integrate people.”
France began providing cultural stipends to its youths through an app called Culture Pass in 2021. France has already implemented the two-tiered access: 18-year-olds receive €300 to spend over a 24-month period, while 15- to 17-year-olds receive around €30 to spend before their 18th birthday. Three weeks into the Culture Pass’s debut, purchasing data pointed to Culture Pass users’ fixation on manga in particular.
The New York Times reported that the app had some built-in restrictions as well, such as a limit of €100 for online purchases and subscription services. Culture Pass’s critics and users alike noted that the program didn’t stimulate youths to step outside of the media they’ve already demonstrated an interest in.
After it was announced late 2021, Spain’s Bono Cultural Jóven (Youth Cultural Bonus) launched last summer with a €400 cultural stipend for 18-year-olds. Like France, Spain’s allowance has a few stipulations: €200 are allotted for live arts and culture experiences, €100 for material goods such as books, video games, and periodicals, and the remaining €100 for digital subscriptions, downloads, and online access to content. Spanish teens have exactly one year to exhaust their cultural allowance.
The Spanish government set aside €210 million from the general state budget to provide these benefits to approximately 500,000 new adults. Recipients can use a virtual card through an app or request a physical card once they apply.
So, it looks like only Berlin’s young adults get the nightclub benefits at this time. Regardless, the European approach of revitalizing the arts and culture sector after COVID-19’s brutal battering is mutually beneficial for the next generation, even if they want to hole up in their beds and read manga instead of visiting the opera.