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Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, delivered a speech to his party comrades in Helsinki on 21 January, 2017.
Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, delivered a speech to his party comrades in Helsinki on 21 January, 2017.

Petteri Orpo, the chairperson of the National Coalition, has expressed his concerns about young people not in education or employment.

“The marginalisation of young people means losing trust in your immediate community, young people and the society. Almost one-fifth of 20–24-year-old young adults were not in education or employment in 2015,” he stated in an address to the party council in Helsinki on Saturday.

“Not having a job is especially detrimental to young people who are only starting their lives,” he added, gauging that improving the employment situation is one of the most effective means to help young people at risk of marginalisation.

Orpo drew attention to statistics indicating that the standard of living for young people decreased considerably relative to other age groups between 1990 and 2013. Statistics Finland reported in April, 2016, that the economic downturn has had an impact especially on the earnings of young people.

“Being in a poor financial situation is dispiriting. It robs people of their confidence in the future, crushes their will to study,” said Orpo.

The three ruling parties have agreed to establish a task force to mull over measures to reduce inequality at the earliest possible stage. One of the priorities of the task force should be early-childhood education, according to Orpo.

“We already know that developing and raising enrolment in early-childhood education is one of the best measures to prevent marginalisation,” he stated.

A recent study, he pointed out, found that children participating in early-childhood education under the age of three, irrespective of the educational background of their parents, are more likely to continue to upper-secondary education and enrol in higher education than children not participating in early-childhood education.

He reminded that young people without at least an upper-secondary education degree may find it difficult to integrate into the labour market and society.

Orpo also highlightedthat enrolment in early-childhood education is relatively low in Finland. Fewer than three-quarters, or 74 per cent, of four-year-old children are currently enrolled in early-childhood education, compared to more than 90 per cent elsewhere in the Nordics.

“What's especially problematic is that those children who'd benefit the most from it have the lowest enrolment rate,” he added.

The Government has according to him decided to reduce the costs of early-childhood education for low-income households by more than 700 euros per year and remove the costs entirely for the lowest-income households.

“This is our way to address growing inequalities. Our goal is that more and more children will have the opportunity to participate in early-childhood education and that more and more parents, especially single parents, will have the opportunity to accept job offers,” explained Orpo.

Orpo also estimated that a social security system encouraging dependence on benefits is especially harmful to young people.

“We're spending more and more money with a view to helping people, but we aren't really helping them. A social security system discouraging from activity is harmful especially to young people. Some end up in an unbreakable social security benefit cycle at a young age. A system that doesn't help you get back on your feet isn't right for young people or others,” he said.

He consequently called for revisions to the social security system designed to encourage benefit recipients to be active and participate by, for example, accepting short-term job offers and volunteering.

“If there's no work available at a certain time, any kind of activity should be preferable to absolute inactivity.”

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Jussi Nukari – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi