Finland: Youth Guarantee shows positive signs despite budget cuts
Despite the economic crisis, the Finnish Youth Guarantee Programme has been considered an overall success so far in helping young people to find work or training. Since its inception in 2013, public employment services have made significant efforts to reach and engage young people, and collaboration has grown among different local public actors.
Youth Guarantee progress
The Finnish Youth Guarantee, which inspired the EU Youth Guarantee, was launched in 1996, before being considerably revised and relaunched in its current form in 2013. The changes were based on the 2011 Government Programme, which stipulated a guarantee – initially referred to as ‘the social guarantee’ (yhteiskuntatakuu) – that every young person under the age of 25, and each recent graduate under 30 years of age, would be offered work, a traineeship, a place to study, or a period in a workshop or rehabilitation programme, within three months of becoming unemployed. The programme was designed by a working group made up of a wide range of stakeholders, including several ministries, public authorities, third-sector actors and peak-level social partners. The programme was ambitious, aiming to provide all young people with access to education and a working life. Its approach was based on rehabilitation, education and increased collaboration (a public-private-people partnership), including the public, private and third sector. The government funded its implementation with an annual amount of €60 million distributed to education, youth work and employment.
In the spring of 2015 the working group presented its final report on the programme, including a review of its progress since 2013 (in Finnish).
Increased transition from basic to other forms of education
The Finnish Youth Guarantee includes a training guarantee (18.8 MB PDF), offering everyone who has just completed comprehensive school a place in further education in upper secondary school, vocational education, apprenticeship training, youth workshops, rehabilitation or other forms of study. The educational guarantee, which began in the autumn of 2013, has helped to increase the number of young people moving from basic education directly to upper secondary education, to voluntary additional basic education or to preparatory training. This has been achieved mainly through:
- an increase in vocational education places;
- giving priority for these places to those who have completed comprehensive school without an upper level vocational qualification.
Among the people who finished their basic education in 2014, only 2.5% did not apply for further studies. Among those who applied, almost 99% received a place to study. The Youth Guarantee working group in its evaluation, however, points out that it remains to be seen how crisis-induced budget cuts and reforms in education will affect the educational guarantee.
Research shows that young people in the labour market who have completed only basic education can expect relatively short working careers. The Youth Guarantee has a special skills programme for young adults aged 20–29 who completed basic education before the training guarantee came into effect, and who did not continue their studies or have no job. This programme, launched at the beginning of 2014, offers them opportunities to apply for vocational education and training, leading to a degree or other qualification. So far, the quantitative targets set for educational institutions under this part of the scheme have been reached. The skills programme will run until the end of 2016.
Great efforts for outreach youth work
Around 40,000 young people under the age of 25 in Finland are estimated to have only a basic level of education, or to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). The Finnish Youth Guarantee includes workshop activities and outreach youth work as a way of helping this group, and the number of young people involved has increased. In 2014, the criteria for being eligible for vocational rehabilitation were eased and this has increased the number of people receiving such support. The scheme has led to public employment offices making significant efforts to reach and engage young people, and collaboration among local public actors has developed. The number of young people using the public employment services has, in comparison to other job-seeker categories, increased significantly. The number of young people receiving start-up support for setting up their own businesses, and the number of young people being employed with pay subsidies has also increased.
A network of one-stop service points for young people under the age of 30 has also been developed within the scheme, after previous evaluations of the Youth Guarantee highlighted certain shortcomings in social and health care services. Further service points will open up in 2015.
Increase in youth unemployment despite positive signs
According to the report, the implementation of the Youth Guarantee and its evaluation have been troubled by the difficult economic conditions in Finland and the rest of Europe. Combined with several reforms to the public employment services in 2013, this makes it hard to establish results. The scheme has, for example, provided the local public employment offices’ youth services with additional resources, but pressures to cut public expenditure has meant the number of personnel has increased only to half the level intended.
Figures from Eurostat show that both Finland's overall unemployment rate and youth unemployment rate have risen since 2013, with youth unemployment reaching 20.5% in 2014 and 23.7% in the second quarter of 2015. Youth unemployment has, however, stayed relatively short-term in nature and, at 1.2%, Finland has the lowest long-term unemployment rate for young people in the EU. In 2011 the average duration of youth unemployment was 11 weeks and, in 2014, only slightly longer at 14 weeks. Unemployment has increased least among young people with only basic education (the target group for both the educational guarantee and the skills programme for young adults). Among this group, the increase in unemployment has been 9.4% between 2011 and 2014, while unemployment among those finishing upper secondary school has grown by 70% during the same period.
Public sector cuts create uphill battle
A growing demand for Youth Guarantee services and the cut in budgets will, however, pose significant challenges to the scheme. The Youth Guarantee working group in their final report stress the need for a long-term perspective and the need for sufficient resources. However, according to the Government Programme presented by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä in May 2015, the scheme will be continued and social welfare and health care services will be strengthened.
Eurofound study on social inclusion
Eurofound’s forthcoming report, Social inclusion of young people, will look at employment-focused initiatives and broader holistic approaches to helping young people, and will investigate the early implementation of the Youth Guarantee in 10 Member States which, as has been mentioned, was largely inspired by the Finnish and Swedish Youth Guarantee.