University graduates: Downshifters in The Rat Race

You will be surprised but Finnish universities do not fit into the traditional Nordic “full employment” scheme anymore, where you would study diligently, graduate early, get yourself a steady job and stay in it until retirement. For a simple reason that there are not enough jobs for all graduates on offer in Finland.

In English  | 

Text Margarita Khartanovich

Kuvat Alisa Tciriulnikova

Universities are trying to adjust: they introduce joint programmes, start-up support, experimental studies, collaborations, internship grants, etc. while being pressed by the government, economy, labour market and society. It’s hard for them to go from “static” to “flexible” overnight. And as long as you happen to pursue your degree during this transitional period, you have to know what to expect after graduation. There is a big chance for you to become downshifters in the rat race.

“If young people look at their job prospects in the next four decades, I wouldn’t be surprised if they opted to vote for basic income instead”, says sociologist and working life researcher Antti Kasvio in his interview to Yle News.

He calls the “full employment” society model “nothing but a pipe dream”. For several years, the jobless rate among highly educated people has been rising faster than that of the population at large.
The Ministry of Employment and Economy’s most recent work barometer says that such professions as secretaries, journalists and advertising specialists suffer from oversupply with few prospects for employment. Biologists, chemists and biochemists are having hard times too, according to economist Heikki Taulu from Akava. This year has seen more unemployed university grads than ever before. With no salaried jobs to be found the boldest ones choose to try their luck as entrepreneurs.

Probably, international students feel the pressure of the rough times the most. Just under half of them are employed in Finland within a year of graduation. The other half leave with their degrees or remain unemployed. After receiving a Master’s degree, many of them get jobs in the hospitality and cleaning industries. Unfortunately, Finnish companies in other areas have no strategy for employing international graduates.

“If a student with a lower degree doesn’t get a job they often pursue PhD studies because that guarantees them 4 years of work through to their dissertation”, says Maija Arvonen, Agreements and Bargaining Officer with the Finnish Union of Experts in Science.

But once they graduate they face the same problem again – the private sector is not interested in hiring those with PhDs. The circle has been closed. By getting a university degree you might set yourself up for downshifting in the rat race triggered by recession, political and social changes.  What you can do now to brake a fall is to be aware of the risks, get your teeth into all opportunities available and keep calm.

Published 10.2.2016 in 1/2016

Margarita Khartanovich

UUNI Editor, Master’s degree in Journalism (University of Tampere). Interested in politics, history, music, social issues and education. Twitter: @marthatcher

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