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Thousands of summer jobs cancelled over coronavirus

In the retail sector alone, thousands of summer jobs have been cancelled.

Kouvolalainen Viveka Tiitola lapsuudenkodissaan.
Viveka Tiitola is one of thousands of young people in Finland who have suddenly found themselves out of a job. Image: Antro Valo / Yle

Viveka Tiitola, 22, had just earned a business degree from South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences (Xamk) in Kouvola and had a part-time job there as a communications assistant, and then a couple of other local part-time jobs. She was applying for communications jobs in Helsinki, and had been called in for interviews when the Covid-19 epidemic struck Finland.

"I already had one foot in Helsinki and was looking for flats in the area," she says. Then she began receiving emails saying that all recruitment was halted – and that her two local part-time jobs were drying up as well. Within a week, Tiitola found herself registering for unemployed benefits for the first time, which she describes as "crushing".

Many other young people are in similar predicaments.

Bate Ismail, an economist at the Finnish Commerce Federation, tells Yle that Finland’s retail sector usually hires about 25,000 summer employees, but that due to the coronavirus crisis, recruitment of thousands of summer workers has stopped.

"Possibly as many as half of summer jobs are in danger, because the speciality goods trade has nearly come to a standstill," says Ismail.

Many firms freeze hiring, but some still looking

Yle asked 11 companies that normally hire many youngsters whether they had stopped recruiting summer workers. Most said they had partly or completely frozen new hiring.

For instance, the HOK-Elanto retail chain says it has stopped recruitment of summer workers to ensure that its regular employees have work over the coming season. However already-agreed summer contracts remain valid.

HR director Antero Levänen says that the corporation received some 7,500 applications and had already hired about 500 people for summer jobs before recruitment was halted.

At the temporary staffing firm Barona, CEO Minna Vanhala-Harmanen says there is still strong demand in construction and logistics, but that the company is no longer looking for anyone for summer jobs in the hospitality or speciality trade sectors.

“We’re looking into alternative summer jobs in fields such as agriculture, social services and health care,” she tells Yle.

Electronics chain Gigantti has had to cancel jobs for this spring and summer at its shops in the Helsinki region, says HR director Tomi Sohlman. The firm received about 500 summer job applications in the region. Some summer workers who were hired and started early will be able to remain in their jobs.

Meanwhile one of the biggest retail groups, Kesko, does not expect many summer jobs to be cancelled in shops and logistics. It says it may even open new summer job slots later in the spring. Grocery chain Lidl is still hiring summer help and HR director Sanna Rainio says that previously-agreed jobs will start as planned.

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