You live and learn or whoso learns young forgets not when he is old

The latter proverb means that you study when you are young so that you can work as an adult. This was probably true when people’s life expectancy was between 40 and 60 years. Is it true today when we live longer than ever before? Can we assume that when we are young, we have enough time to learn all that we need to know during our forty-year-old career?

The labour market needs highly educated, competent people. At the same time, there is a tough competition for jobs and retirement seems a long way off. During a long career, anything can happen as technology develops and new professions emerge and old ones disappear. A good and up-to-date education helps you to succeed in the labour market. It also guarantees the availability of high-quality workforce and competitiveness in international markets.

According to a survey conducted by the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy Etla, adult education allowance increases the level of education in Finland and encourages retraining. However, opportunities for adults to study for a degree have been limited. The latest cuts were made at the beginning of 2017 when the maximum allowance period for the adult education allowance was reduced from 19 months to 15 months and the basic component of the allowance was cut by 100 euros. Women were particularly affected by the cuts: 75 per cent of those receiving adult education allowance are women.

There are several reasons for becoming an adult student. Some want to retrain in order to improve their job opportunities, while others find their dream profession in their adult life. Sometimes the right time to study is not until one has had children or one is not ready for studies at an higher education institution until later in one’s life. Whatever the reason, the most important thing is that everyone has the opportunity to study at an age when it is possible or necessary for them. The popularity of and demand for adult education is constantly growing, not least because of the demands of the labour market.

The student unions and SYL should take into account the changing age structure of students in their advocacy work. Adult students also need someone who supports them and stands up for their rights. Opportunities to begin studying at open universities should be increased. For instance, diverse evening classes should be offered so that it is possible to graduate. The short allowance period, 15 months, is not even enough for taking a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree. It would be profitable for universities to invest in adult students. Due to their tight schedule, adult students are especially motivated and effective, they graduate quickly and re-enter the labour market with the latest know-how.

We must especially improve the status of women in the labour market. A good level of education makes it easier to find work. There is still more work to be done to achieve pay equality. Women have higher education which often compensates for their shorter careers. According to Statistics Finland, women have more academic degrees than men. Nevertheless, the average salary for women with an academic degree is 1,000 euros lower than for men with an academic degree. The average earnings for women with a Bachelor’s degree are 100 euros less than the average earnings for men with upper secondary education.

In developing countries, it is not self-evident that women have access to higher education. SYL’s themes for development cooperation focus on education, supporting students and increasing the awareness of development cooperation in Finland. Global education is a part of active citizenship which improves our understanding of the life of students in different parts of the world. Improving the status of women is an example of a common theme, although the starting point can be different. If we look at the hundred-year-old Finland’s state of affairs when the country became independent, we can see many similarities in the status of women in today’s developing countries.

It is important to promote the following global and current themes both in Finland and in developing countries: sustainability, fairness and education.


Taru Marjamäki

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