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Trade Union News from Finland

Record number of highly educated people are unemployed

Helsinki (20.12.2012 - Juhani Artto) It still holds true - in general terms - that the better a person's education is, the better his or her chances are of being employed or finding a job. But this generalization has gradually lost much of its strength. Prior to  the early 1990s depression in the Finnish economy, the unemployment rate of highly-educated people was extremely low, less than 1 per cent. During the depression it peaked at around 7 per cent and then came down to about 4-5 per cent where it has remained since 1999.

The still relatively low unemployment rate disguises the fact that the number of highly-educated unemployed people has trendwise grown fairly rapidly. Akavalainen, the magazine of the union confederation Akava, recently published an article on this very trend under the headline "A record, not to be cheered". The story, written by Heikki Taulu, who works as an economist at Akava, describes the changes taking place concerning the unemployment of highly-educated people. Akava is the union confederation for highly-educated people's trade unions (www.akava.fi/en).

The figures to the unemployment rate for this group of people conceals the increase in the number of unemployed, because  the educational level of the population has risen at such a rapid pace. The table below gives an idea of this tremendous dynamic.

Population aged 15 or over (1000 persons) and its division in three educational levels 1970-2010   

 

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

basic educ.
(ISCED 2 or
less) 

2598
75%

2348
62%

2000
50%

1724
41%

1482
33%

upper sec.
(ISCED 3/4)

573
16%

967
25%

1310
32%

1529
36%

1758
39%

tertiary
(ISCED 5/6)

309
9%

503
13%

724
18%

992
23%

1247
28%

all

3480

3818

4034

4245

4488

Source: Educational structure of population, Statistics Finland
http://193.166.171.75/database/StatFin/kou/vkour/vkour_en.asp

The labour market has not been able to absorb the ever increasing numbers of highly-educated men and women. The next table gives a rough idea on how education has lost its relative capacity to be converted into employment.

The number of unemployed and the unemployment rate (%) on three educational levels 2001-2011

  number of
unempl. 2001
provision of all unempl. 2001 number of
unempl. 2011
provision of all unempl. 2011
basic educ 129,000 44,9 79,600

35,7

upper sec. 141,600 49,2 116,700

52,3

tertiary 17,100  5,9 26,600

12,0

all 287,700 100,0 222,900

100,0

Source: Akava

Heikki Taulu says that among the highly-educated people the risk of being unemployed is now somewhere around half of the risk in the entire labour force. At the beginning of the year 2000 the risk of the highly-educated was a third of the risk faced by the entire labour force. And he is confident that this trend will continue many years to come.

Growing risk of unemployment has not made highly-educated people turn their backs to trade unions. This is well illustrated in the enlargement of Akava's affiliated unions. In 2000, they had 375,000 rank and file members, in 2012 even 566,000. According to Akava, approximately 70 per cent of all highly educated citizens are members of one of Akava’s affiliates.