Youth unemployment stirs debate on Swedish model


Published — Monday 19 November 2012

Last update 19 November 2012 3:07 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

STOCKHOLM: When Adam Lundborg, a 25 year-old business graduate, began handing out flyers on a busy shopping street in central Stockholm this summer, he was selling a product he knew better than most: himself.
The leaflets featured a short presentation of Lundborg and the type of jobs he was looking for: "Any challenges you throw my way."
"I graduated from university with top grades, but when I entered the job market it was like hitting a brick wall," he said.
On his second day of job hunting, Lundborg was offered a job by a company that had read about his plight in a newspaper. But the opening, described in the media as a "dream job", turned out to be a commission-based telemarketing position.
He ended up resigning, choosing instead to spend his time calling chief executives at companies he'd like to work for, hoping to get a chance to introduce himself.
Lundborg is victim of Sweden's persistently high youth unemployment, a hot-button issue in a country that prides itself on egalitarian policies, and that has weathered the financial crisis better than most.
Although Sweden's export-driven economy is beginning to feel the effects of Europe's economic woes, it has posted strong growth since making a quick recovery from the 2008 recession. It also has a low level of government debt.
But youth unemployment has remained above the European average, reaching a seasonally adjusted 23.0 percent in October, compared to 7.7 percent for the population as a whole, according to Statistics Sweden.
Last year, Swedes aged 15 to 24 were more than four times more likely to be without work than the rest of the work force, the highest ratio in Europe according to Eurostat.
Even during the boom years before the crisis, Sweden's youth unemployment hovered around 25 percent.
Last month one town, Soederhamn, went so far as to subsidize people between 18 and 28 to go look for work in Norway.
Swedish employers place the blame squarely on the employment protection laws and high entry level wages championed by the country's powerful unions.
"The barriers to entry to the job market are especially high in Sweden, leaving many young people on the sidelines," said Malin Sahlen, an economist at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, who on Tuesday released a book on the subject.
In her book, Sahlen argues that the high cost of firing workers means employers are reluctant to hire people with little, or little known, experience, making it tougher for young people and immigrants to gain a foothold in the job market.
They also bear the brunt of any job cuts in a downturn due to strictly enforced "last in, first out" selection criteria during redundancies.
Moreover, the high level of pay for entry level jobs — in Sweden set by collective bargaining, as opposed to a statutory minimum wage — give companies little incentive to choose young people over more experienced candidates.
It also encourages them to eliminate entry-level positions in order to cut costs, she said.
The Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO), a close ally of the Social Democratic party, which dominated political life in Sweden for much of the past century, painted a very different picture, saying that the extent of the problem has been exaggerated.
"Many of those between 15 and 19 who are registered as unemployed are full-time students looking for part-time work, and that group of people really isn't a problem," said Oscar Ernerot, an ombudsman at LO.
"Sweden has a higher number of full-time students looking for part-time work," he added when asked about comparisons with countries that have a lower rate of youth unemployment.
Out of those between 20 and 24 years old, the main problem was a growing number of people who have failed to complete their secondary education, and for whom there is little demand in the labor market, Ernerot added, referring to a dwindling number of unskilled labor jobs.
The center-right government should invest more in education and projects that would create jobs for those people, he argued.
Stripping out full-time students and those who have been unemployed for less than a month, Sweden's youth unemployment would fall to around seven or eight percent, the LO ombudsman said.
However, Sahlen maintained that the statistics were accurate.
"It seems odd that Sweden should have more full-time students looking for part-time work than other countries do, given that they all measure unemployment in the same way," she said.
While there is little political appetite to relax Sweden's labor laws, LO has signaled that it may back a government proposal on youth apprenticeships, under which young people would be paid less than is currently mandated by the unions.
"It's not a lower salary, you get the same hourly wage," Chairman Karl-Petter Thorwaldsson yesterday told public broadcaster SVT, referring to a clause that says the apprentice has to spend 25 percent of the time studying.
But he added: "Something isn't working. When young people leave school they are not getting the jobs they have been trained for."
Meanwhile, Lundborg, the 25 year-old graduate, continues to look for work.
"Many of the companies I speak to sound positive towards me as a person, but say they don't need any more staff," he said.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Kingdom has taken the right approach to counter the operations of terrorists groups, which includes cutting off their funding, according to several leading experts.This comes in the wake of Saudi Arabia blacklisting on Thursday 12 people...
RIYADH: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MCI) won the award for providing the Best E-Government Service among Gulf Cooperation Council countries.The award, “Best E-Government Service” for the E-Commercial Registration, was given during the four...
RIYADH: The Kingdom and Britain signed an executive agreement on Wednesday in Riyadh on medical training for Saudi postgraduate students on specialized subjects.The agreement was signed by Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih and Minister of State for Com...
JEDDAH: Of youths under the age of 20, 5 to 10 percent suffer from diabetes, said Vice President of the Saudi Society for Children’s Medicine and head of the third annual conference for diabetes patients Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al-Toweim.The two-day...
TAIF: Voters taking photographs inside election booths would have their votes disqualified for the municipal council elections taking place on Dec. 12, according to Taif’s election committee.They would also be excluded if they use their mobile phones...
ISLAMABAD: Jamia Ashrafiya President Sheikh Fahad Rahim has lauded the role of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman as well as the Muslim World League (MWL) in serving the cause of Islam and uniting Muslims around the world.He was speaking d...
JEDDAH: The Memon Welfare Society (MWS) felicitated meritorious students from the community at its fourth annual awards distribution ceremony here recently.Abdullah Yousuf was the first to come and take his prize for securing top position in Grade 8...
RIYADH: A Filipino worker claims that he has been waiting for over a year for his former company to pay him SR68,880, which is his end-of-service benefit after leaving the company last November and returning home.Bukhari Nor Cali, 59, from Mindanao,...
JEDDAH: Adults are often the last ones to know when a child is bullied at school. However, parents or school authorities should step in if any child is being beaten, threatened or taunted by another pupil. A high school boy was beaten up and harassed...
RIYADH: Six winners — five authors and a researcher from scientific and educational institutions — have been announced as winners in the King Abdul Aziz Book Award this year.The committee for the King Abdulaziz Book Award said the works of the winner...
RIYADH: The Kingdom now has 67 female lawyers out of 3,400 in the country, according to a report released by the Justice Ministry.The report said that 65 male lawyers were registered at the beginning of the Islamic year on Oct. 14, and four female la...
JEDDAH: Jeddah police are investigating the theft and signature forgery of six checks from the Jeddah municipality headquarters.The Anti-Forgery Department was assigned to locate all information related to the check forgery cases. Local media estimat...
MAKKAH: Certain areas of Makkah witness a regular scene in the morning of a number of men waiting for car-washing work and make some money.After their morning duties, these men leave for other work as plumbers, electricians and rock breakers in mount...
RIYADH: A ‘Diabetes Detection’ campaign has been launched under the National Diabetes Prevention and Control Program of the Ministry of Health (MoH).The MoH has joined efforts with the Al-Abeer Medical Group, KIMS Sun City medical centers and the AXA...
RIYADH: Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said on Thursday that a military option in Syria was still viable and support for the opposition fighting to oust President Bashar Assad would continue.Speaking at a news conference with visiting Austrian Forei...

Events & Exhibitions

Stay Connected