Tuomas Oksa, a high-school student from Valkeakoski, founded his own business after realising that there was demand for his hand-crafted furniture and decorative accessories.The attitudes of young people toward self-employment are more and more positive. Nearly half of young people in Finland consider self-employment an attractive career option, according to last year's edition of the enterprise review published by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy.

“A generational shift is taking place on an attitudinal level,” views Joonas Mikkilä, an organisation manager at the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.

Today, self-employment is considered a viable career option also by university students due to, for example, the ongoing start-up boom and the establishment of communities promoting self-employment by universities.

“People no longer think higher education guarantees employment as a wage earner. The threshold for self-employment has become lower,” estimates Mikkilä.

Young people, he believes, consider self-employment an attractive career option because their attitudes toward employment are different from those of their parents: for them, work is not simply a means of livelihood. “The self-employed work more hours per week, but they feel that their work is more meaningful and important than wage earners.”

Self-employment has yet to increase among young people in a statistically significant manner, however. The self-employed are on an average older than wage earners, fewer than one-tenth of them being under 30 and fewer than one-fifth under 35 years old.

Yet, the growing interest of young people in self-employment has been recognised at centres promoting the growth of new businesses across the country. “Students' interest [in self-employment] is totally different from a few years ago,” says Antti Ylönen, the managing director at the enterprise centre for new businesses in Kuopio.

Toivo Utso, a chief business advisor at Enterprise Helsinki, reveals similarly that young people increasingly attend seminars and info events on self-employment. “It's obvious that schools invest more in self-employment and young people are more interested in it,” he says.

In fact, several young people set up their own business already before graduation.

Young people, Utso reveals, have bold and unique business ideas and are often more willing to take risks. “Questions asked by young business-owners often concern funding. They've yet to build wealth,” he says.

In addition, many of them are concerned that a young business-owner may not appear credible in the eyes of partners and customers. Age has occasionally also proven an obstacle to finding suitable premises for their business.

Although the uncertain employment situation has certainly encouraged young people to consider self-employment, it is not the only factor contributing to the phenomenon, Mikkilä believes.

“People have prepared for the event that employment is not permanent also in other ways. For many, self-employment is temporary or a secondary occupation. I believe an entrepreneurial way of working will become more common,” he predicts.

Minna Pölkki – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Harri Nurminen