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Finland’s comprehensive social guarantee for young people
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Finland’s comprehensive social guarantee for young people

| Text and Photo: Berit Kvam

The Finnish government is rolling out a comprehensive programme aimed at young people. The social guarantee aims to offer all under-25s and all newly educated under-30s a job, study place, apprenticeship or rehabilitation within three months of the young person becoming unemployed.

“Nothing saddens me more than seeing young people without an education and out of work. Today 40,000 under-25s in Finland are neither in education or in work. They have fallen between two stools.”

Finland’s Minister of Labour Lauri Ihalainen is giving his full attention to youth unemployment. If he could choose one thing to get done during his time in government, it is to make sure young people don’t remain on the fringes of society but that they find jobs or enter into education.

“There are many reasons why they have ended up on the outside. They might not have finished higher secondary education or they haven’t had the energy to even start after finishing elementary school. Many young people need help to improve their self-belief, and they need to learn how to control their own lives so that they can get into a system of education,” says Lauri Ihalainen.

Challenging transitions

“There are special challenges linked to the transition from elementary school to higher secondary education and when going from higher secondary education to getting your first job.”

The youngest age group need to be approached where they are, “whether they are at home or among their friends”. They will be given a tailored offer depending on their life situation which should help them get into the education system. 

The social guarantee means just that - that all young people should be guaranteed a chance to get a college education or a vocational education. The state has earmarked €60m every year for five years for this. On top that it has promised €50m a year for the next five years to help 20-29 year olds who have no education beyond elementary school. 

“We were very surprised when we found out that Finland had 110,000 young adults who had no education beyond elementary school.

“It isn’t marginalised youth who are standing outside of society, but young people who for some reason never finished a higher secondary education. Our aim with this programme is that 36,000 of the 110,000 will finish their higher secondary education.

“I said this when I met my Nordic colleagues because in today’s society it isn’t easy to get a foothold in working life if you only have an elementary education. The personal work history can be cut very short if the young person has not finished a higher secondary education,” says Lauri Ihalainen.

The programme is targeted at another critical phase too - the transition from higher secondary education to working life. Many young unemployed have finished their higher secondary education but still fail to get a job.

Employers are included

“This is a challenge especially for the private sector, because the public sector cannot solve this problem on its own,” says Lauri Ihalainen.

As a result, Finland has established a system they call chance money, the  Sanssi-card, which is an offer available to all private businesses. The scheme allows employers who hire an unemployed youth to claim state support to the tune of €650 a month for one year.

“The idea is to lower the threshold for employers to hire these young people. The youths are paid a normal salary while the employer gets support. This is a huge undertaking from society and a very ambitious programme,” underlines Lauri Ihalainen.

“Our experience shows the importance of taking action early on, as early as in elementary school.”

All the schemes will last until 2015, or until the next general election, but the Minister of Labour doesn’t think that will be the end of it.

The youth guarantee has been prepared by a task group staffed by people from several government ministries, the social partners, representatives for organisations and young people themselves. It has been a work in progress since 2011. 

“We are five government ministers who have been cooperating on this. Over the next months we will visit Finland’s fifteen largest cities to introduce the programme.”

Each city will be visited by one government minister. The reason for this is a desire to bring on board the municipalities and all the regional and municipal players, because it is they who will put this plan into action.  

“This is society coming together and involving everyone. The programme goes live from 2013,” Finland’s Minister of Labour Lauri Ihalainen tells Nordic Labour Journal.

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