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Citizens’ initiative demands right to study without losing unemployment benefit

Shop stewards at Microsoft and Nokia have launched a citizens’ initiative demanding that those who lose their job are automatically permitted to study without losing their higher, income-linked unemployment benefit. At present permission to study can only be granted by officials at the Employment office.

Microsoft Tampereen ylempien toimihenkilöiden luottamusmies Kalle Kiili
Image: Marko Melto / Yle

Unemployment is one of the key challenges facing Finland, and the technology sector has suffered more lay-offs than most. Now two shop stewards at firms who have sacked thousands of workers in recent years are campaigning for a measure to help ease the burden.

Kalle Kiili of Microsoft mobile and Lasse Laurikainen of Nokia launched a citizens’ initiative on Thursday that aims to make it easier for laid-off workers to re-train. At present workers stand to lose their income-linked unemployment benefits if they start studying within two years of being made unemployed.

Unwieldy approach

Kiili and Laurikainen say that people should automatically be allowed to study and keep receiving the higher payments. At present they have to seek permission from the Employment office to study while retaining their income, and according to the shop stewards that is a bureaucratic and unwieldy approach.

"At worst it just creates difficulties for over-worked officials at the Employment offices," the pair say in a statement.

Before the system was reformed in 2010 this wasn’t even an option at all. Since then it has grown in popularity, with some 35,000 people now studying and getting their unemployment money. The average length of the study course or training is one year.

Ministry cautious

"We take account of how much the planned education will improve the jobseeker’s chances of finding work," said Ari-Pekka Leminen of the Employment Ministry. "The idea is that the training should improve employability significantly."

Leminen does however see problems with the scheme. If there is no assessment then people might change careers even though there is work available in their own field, and that could in turn exacerbate labour shortages.

At present the initiative has been backed by more than 800 people. If it gains the support of 50,000 people it will be considered by parliament.

Sources: Yle

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