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Finnish future report: Youths worry about fitting into the labour market

Finnish future report: Youths worry about fitting into the labour market

| Text: Bengt Östling, photo: Björn Lindahl

Finnish school students have become more anxious about their ability to succeed in the future job market. A new future report shows only 53 per cent of young people are enthusiastic about entering the labour market. In 2018 82 per cent said the same.

Fewer and fewer young Finns believe they will find their place in the labour market. They fear low wages and that work will take away too much of their spare time. Girls in particular believe working life will be too tough. Young people’s worries have increased since the pandemic.

The future report points out that the majority of those answering the survey have limited working life experience. Students do look forward to the opportunity to have summer jobs, which boosts their self-confidence. There also seems to be an increased interest in entrepreneurship. 

5,000 respondents

The young people’s views are influenced by public debate and their parents. It seems clear that when parents enjoy their jobs this rubs off on the youths.

Nearly 5,000 young people in colleges, upper secondary education and vocational schools answered the survey which was presented in May. The future report was made by the Junior Achievement Finland (JA). The nonprofit organisation is affiliated with the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and also the trade unions.

JA helps young people develop labour market skills, entrepreneurship, and economic skills in schools and municipalities. The organisation has a network of “business villages” in thirteen locations across Finland. Its activities are integrated into the schools' curriculum. 

Younger students visit a miniature village where they try out a profession and are paid for their work, while also learning how to be a consumer and citizen. The older students compete in different professional roles, leading a company in an international marketplace. 

Entrepreneurship tempts more boys

Some of the questions in the future report deal with the students’ ideas about entrepreneurship. 45 per cent of the respondents said they could envisage being an entrepreneur. There was a small increase among boys in particular. 

Entrepreneurship is considered to provide independent work, more decision-making power and flexibility. There is a significant increase in the opinion that businesses are important for society, from 69 per cent one year ago to 83 per cent in the latest survey. 

Summer jobs

Most young people have their first taste of working life at 14 or 15 through practical work experience or their first summer job. Many are also motivated by the change to earn their own money. 

Around 70 per cent of the respondents said they were happy with their experiences, including receiving guidance and being warmly welcomed in the workplace. The same number of respondents said they were planning to apply for work this summer too. 

However, upon closer examination, there is also dissatisfaction. A lack of encouragement and appreciation is highlighted by 49 per cent of the respondents, particularly those with an immigrant background.

It is not that easy to find a summer job for young people in Finland, and the number of jobs available varies between the regions. Many of the jobs are found in retail and tourism, service and care, agriculture and through municipalities, which offer support jobs for youths.  

Increased differentiation

The future report highlights the need for improvements in the labour market. Social differentiation is already visible in young people’s first important experiences with working life.

Lauri Vaara

Lauri Vaara, special advisor for teacher training and research, work at the Junior Achievement Finland (JA).

Lauri Vaara, a special advisor at the organisation behind the report, highlights the need to focus more on diversity in the workplace so that all young people feel they get the support they need. 

A positive attitude to work instils confidence in one's opportunities and abilities to succeed in the labour market. Previous surveys have also shown a clear link between positive attitudes to work and an increased interest in summer jobs.

A threat to well-being

The report points out that young people who are less oriented towards working life, have less self-esteem and feel threatened. The situation could be particularly worrying among young girls if they feel they do not fit into Finnish society.

One of the aims should therefore be for all young people to feel sufficiently encouraged and supported. 

The Finnish government’s programme highlights similar issues. When the centre-right four-party coalition was formed in the summer of 2023, young people’s welfare situation was described as more polarised than before.

An increasing number of young people are doing better than before, but young people who are not doing well are doing less well than before. Exclusion and increased mental health problems are the biggest challenges to our society, according to Prime Minister Petteri Orpo’s government’s programme. 

Wishes for the future

What young people want from working life might sound obvious: reasonable working hours and a safe work environment, good colleagues and leaders, good pay and the opportunity to use their knowledge. 

The focus on the individual’s values related to working life is said to have increased somewhat in the latest survey. Many responses are gender-specific.

Boys place greater emphasis on the ability to make decisions and lead, flexibility at work, physical strength and new technology. Girls, on the other hand, put more emphasis on the ability to collaborate and to embrace and respect diversity.

Lauri Vaara has no comparative international surveys on summer jobs or attitudes to working life.

A Finnish trend that could be said to be more international is that new generations are becoming more aware and critical in their attitude toward their jobs. They focus on more than just their pay, including quality, leadership and participation.

No easy ride into the labour market

Finnish youths are less optimistic about finding a job that pays enough, according to a survey of 5,000 young people.


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