The public debate is increasingly supportive of self-employment as an alternative for job-seekers and students.
Annamari Iranto, an unemployed job-seeker with higher education qualifications, criticised the manner in which the jobless and employment measures are discussed in public in a writing that went viral on social media last week. She also pointed out in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat that self-employment is not suitable for everyone and should not be recommended for every job-seeker.
While job-seekers are encouraged to start their own business, the funding for start-up grants has already dried up in Uusimaa and is about to do so also in other regions. The situation is topsy-turvy: there is interest in, but no funding for, self-employment.
Hannele Nerg-Vanha-Perttula, an expert at the Uusimaa Employment and Economic Development Office, says that the grant appropriations have been slashed in recent years. Self-employment, she admits, should only be presented as an alternative for job-seekers after careful consideration.
“As a former business-owner, I know that you shouldn't start a business overnight,” she says.
Nerg-Vanha-Perttula urges policy-makers to shoulder their responsibility and acknowledge that self-employment is not suitable for everyone. “Businesses shouldn't be founded only to embellish unemployment statistics,” she states.
Statistics maintained by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy show that start-up grants are granted especially to businesses in the retail and service sector. This year, 9,471 grant applications have been accepted and 1,560 applications rejected. Most of the grant recipients last year were aged 30—34 years.
Jari Jokilampi, the chief executive at Uusyrityskeskukset Ry, is nevertheless reluctant to discourage aspiring business-owners. “But you have to be a realist. It's a fact that self-employment is not suitable for everyone,” he acknowledges.
He reveals that the majority of newly-established businesses falter due to a lack of paying customers. “Last year, we appraised 200,000 business ideas. 8,010 out of those businesses began operations. The number of ideas has pretty much stayed unchanged, but people are starting fewer businesses than before.”
Starting a business simply in order to qualify for start-up grants is also a bad idea, according to Jokilampi. The grants are relatively small, but expenses will start to crop up immediately. Revenues, in turn, will come later, if they come at all.
Jokilampi is pleased that people are weighing up the pros and cons of self-employment more carefully and that part-time self-employment has become more common. “If you can be self-employed on a part-time basis while studying or working, it's a good way to practise,” he points out.
Virve Rissanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
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Photo: Juhani Niiranen / HS