Soste: Young Finns' educational level has dropped below OECD average

The educational level of young people in Finland has deteriorated rapidly, warns the social affairs and health federation.

The level of education of young people has dropped since the peak years of the early 2000s (file photo of a university admission exam). Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

The educational level of young people in Finland has fallen from the top echelon to mid-table among industrialised countries, says the Finnish Federation for Social Affairs and Health (Soste).

Contrary to popular belief, young adults are not necessarily more educated than retiring age groups. According to the federation, the level of education could be raised by increasing the number of university places and extending compulsory education.

The confederation on Friday expressed concern about the relatively rapid decline in educational achievement and calls for major changes to reverse this trend. Since the peak years of the early 2000s, the level of education of young people in the country has dropped to about that same as that of the age groups leaving the labour market.

According to the organisation, young Finns are now less educated than their counterparts in the OECD countries on average. OECD members include 38 economically developed democracies.

Labour shortage linked to educational level

According to Finnish education statistics, the share of those with only the basic compulsory education (which has traditionally ended around age 16) is at the same level among those aged 20–24 as among those aged 60–64. Meanwhile, the share of the highly educated people in the 55-64 age group has been higher than among the 25-34 age group for the past several years.

According to the organisation, the current labour shortage is linked to stagnation in educational level growth. Its survey indicates that there is now a relatively higher proportion of skilled labour in many other countries compared to Finland. In some cases the share of the age group with a higher education is twice as high as here, it says.

Compulsory education through university level?

"People in Finland who were young at the beginning of the 21st century, who were once among the most educated in the world, seem to still be the most educated age group in the country," said Aleksi Kalenius, a senior expert at Soste.

Soste says that the education policy goal whereby half of young people would attain a university degree in 2030 is slipping out of reach.

In order to even approach that goal, Soste argues that the decision-makers should reconsider whether this year's extension of compulsory education to the age of 18 is sufficient – or whether it should be further expanded to cover a tertiary, university-level degree.

In addition, thousands of new places should be made available at universities, particularly in social and health services, the group urges.

Soste is an umbrella organisation of some 200 Finnish NGOs in the social affairs and health fields, founded in 2012.