The Finnish higher education system is too selective, with two-thirds of applicants to higher education rejected every year, says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (Anni Reenpää – Lehtikuva)

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FINLAND must make every effort to improve the employment prospects of low-skilled young people, states the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The OECD on Tuesday published a report that urges the country to take immediate action to rationalise the benefit system and encourage young job seekers to find employment in order to reduce the share of under 30-year-old who are not in employment, education or training.

Finland, it highlighted, has one of the most selective higher education systems in the 36-country economic consortium, with over two-thirds (67%) of applicants rejected annually compared to the 30 per cent average in the OECD. Only a quarter of young people in the country are consequently able to start their tertiary studies immediately after completing upper-secondary education.

Although the Finnish education system continues to perform outstandingly, the country should also take action to boost completion rates in upper-secondary education. Vocational education is a particular concern, with a quarter of students failing to obtain their degree within two years of expected graduation.

“With a strong demand for high-skilled workers and persistent shortages in high-skilled jobs, low-skilled youth struggle in the Finnish labour market. Young people who failed to complete upper-secondary education account for nearly half of [people not in employment, education or training],” said the OECD.

Another problem is the generous support system for young people in Finland, according to the OECD.

It pointed out that while the wide range of benefits and services can help young people to face economic and labour market challenges, it can also create disincentives to find employment – as evidenced by the fact that the share of young people receiving an out-of-work benefit stands at roughly 33 per cent in Finland, the second highest level in the OECD.

The OECD also presented a number of recommendations to tackle the issue.

Finland, it said, should strengthen the activation of benefit recipients and effectiveness of labour market programmes, provide sufficient support services to students to prevent school dropout, and guarantee the availability of support networks in all municipalities to reach out to early school leavers.

The transition from upper-secondary to higher education should also be eased by revamping the admission system and expanding the capacity of the higher education system. The pathway from vocational education to employment should be improved by promoting collaboration with employers and launching short-cycle post-secondary vocational programmes for upper-secondary graduates.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT