The past year has increased uncertainty in the job market, which has also impacted on youth unemployment. According to the latest unemployment statistics, unemployment among the under-25 population in Helsinki had increased by as much as 110 percent since last year. The corresponding figure for those aged between 25 and 35 was 96 percent. The situation has also become worse throughout the country for the newly graduated, although less dramatically: between 2015 and 2017, there were, at the highest count, some 5,000 more new graduates without work than there are now.
Alarmingly, the number of unemployed among the highly educated has increased relatively quickly. Chief Economist Pasi Sorjonen from Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff in Finland, says that the apex of the financial crisis is drawing unpleasantly near. This should be a wake-up call for us, because higher education typically protects against unemployment.
So what should be done?
Universities’ career and recruiting services are making important efforts to help graduates find work. Now, if ever, universities should invest in these services to ensure that all university students are offered good career services.
A lot also hinges on what takes place during studies, and whether studies actually help students to find work? The situation is pretty good in universities, because according to career monitoring, students are attaining skills that are important in working life, such as how to learn new things. University studies are not pursued purely to meet the needs of working life, but they do provide skills that are needed when working, something which we should hold onto. For some, this also means entrepreneurship, which universities should support.
Measures are also required by the public sector and labor market. TE Services, which are in charge of labor market services, have a very wide range of customers. In terms of a favorable outcome, it is important that services have enough skilled people who can identify different jobseekers’ needs. In terms of the highly educated, this means greater ability to identify the specific characteristics of various fields of education and the employment potential they provide.
Employers must be equally sensitive: expertise accumulated during university studies may be difficult to put into words, and spotting expertise may not be easy for someone who has not studied the subject. In terms of employers, this means having the courage to hire experts with different backgrounds and from different fields of education.
Employment of international students is a good example of a situation where measures are required by higher education institutions, the public sector and the labor market. Many international students would like to stay in Finland after graduation, but eventually leave because they cannot find work. To remedy the situation, higher education institutions need to strengthen their labor market connections and competences; public decision-makers must work to remove obstacles and create incentives; and employers must have a genuine desire to hire such experts.
Higher education generally protects against unemployment. Higher unemployment among the newly graduated raises increased concerns about youth unemployment. A prolonged recession will weaken the position of the younger generations, and that is why we need measures to prevent youth unemployment.
The Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi organized an event in the early fall in which parliamentary parties presented their solutions for preventing the exclusion of young people. Their suggestions varied from party to party. What they all had in common was that something must be done. The government budget session made provisions for the promotion of youth employment. These measures include labor market training and services for young people, and better availability of Guidance Centre services for those under the age of 30. These measures and the other issues referred to above must be started right away, not at some point in the future.
Education Policy Advisor