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MP Antti Kaikkonen's Column in Helsinki Times 13.6.2013:

Work for the young

Youth unemployment is one of the most alarming issues of our time. To tackle it the government passed a law last fall called the Youth guarantee. Since January 2013 it is guaranteed by law that each person under 25 years of age, and recent graduates under 30 years of age, will be offered work, a work trial, or a study, workshop or labour market rehabilitation place within three months of registering as an unemployed jobseeker. The Youth guarantee also includes an educational guarantee, which guarantees a study place for each young person finishing basic education.

The aims and principles of the Youth guarantee are great. The same cannot be said about its functioning. The unemployment rate among the young has not decreased, in fact it has risen. Last April almost 24.4 percent of the youth under 25 years of age were unemployed. It is 0.9 percentage point higher than a year before. Thus it is clear that the Youth guarantee is not resolving all the issues by itself as the government has assumed. Some serious improvements are desperately needed.

Due to the generally weak economic situation most of the Finnish companies are struggling to hire more employees. Chances of finding employment are even harder for young persons with little or no experience. For that reason the government has promised to give wage aid to employers up to 700 euros per month for the duration of 10 months if they hire a young person who fills the required criteria. Unfortunately the system has proved to be ineffective. If a company has laid off employees it is in most cases required to hire them back before enlisting new people. In addition, many entrepreneurs feel the bureaucracy related to the wage aid is too heavy. This needs to change. Hiring the young should be easy and inviting to employers.

Records show that the possibilities of finding employment are worse for those who do not have any professional education. Therefore the key focus is to get the young continue studying after basic education and help them find their path. However it also needs to be recognized that one size does not fit all. Some of the young prefer practical approaches and do not feel comfortable in schools. Apprenticeship training is a good option but completely new solutions are also needed.

One would be to develop a lighter and faster way to educate the young directly at the workplace compared to our current apprenticeship training. There are many jobs and professions where it is possible to learn the required practices on the job in a few months’ time under supervision.

We also need to take account how the young see their situation. The Youth guarantee needs to be developed in a way that makes it tempting and easy to use. Participating in any kind of work or training needs always to be more beneficial for the young than staying at home and living on social welfare.

It is about time we start working for our young, just as we expect them to work for themselves.