Finland

Finland is sometimes called the promised land of civil society. We have a strong tradition of all kinds of organisations. Almost every young person is a member of at least one organisation, whether it be a hobby, school, political, human rights, international affairs, etc. All youth organisations then belong to a national umbrella organisation, Allianssi, which has an excellent web page with information on Finnish youth: www.alli.fi.Young people in Finland are very privileged in the sense that youth participation is very well organised and youth platforms are the respected part of civil society. I have participated in youth structures in many different levels and I have experienced the effectiveness of well organised youth representation. The Finnish national youth council, for example, is part of the decision-making and consultation processes of the Finnish government. Young people in general have very good opportunities for quality education. The only problems we really have are youth unemployment, which is 20-22% at the moment, and increasing problems with drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental health problems of young people.

About the situation of the Finnish youth: Finnish young people are living in a situation of contradiction. Finnish welfare is bigger than ever, but unemployment is very high. In the whole country around 9-10% of people are unemployed, but a relatively much bigger part of youth is unemployed. This means that a lot of young people must look for help from their parents or from society. This part of youngsters is under threat of creating a new class of poor people. Research results are saying that 10-20 %of a new generation cannot learn skills which are necessary to find jobs in a new, much more rapid and unstable society. At the same time, the Finnish educational system is getting good marks from the international Pisa research: the Finnish educational system is the best in the world. This means that many young people can get skills which are good enough to manage in the new global system. Frankly speaking, Finnish youth can be divided into two or three parts: those who are successful, those who are just getting by, and those who drop from society.

According to recent polls, the most important things for the majority of young Finns are health, home, good relationships, love and work. However, young people have increasingly individual values. There is no one youth culture but a variety of youth cultures and subcultures. Young Finns are highly motivated for education. After the nine-year compulsory schooling, over 90% of the age group continues in upper secondary schools or in vocational education. In addition to education, young people value the Finnish social security system. A great factor which instils uncertainty in young people’s lives is non-permanent employment relations. Young people are losing their interest in influencing social decision-making and their confidence in politics. The high youth unemployment rate has been a big problem in Finland in the 90′s. At 23.5% it is almost twice the overall unemployment rate. Youth workshops are a new form of youth work. The workshops spread over a span of six months, offer training, work and related activities for unemployed youngsters. These workshops help young people manage their lives and provide knowledge and skills needed in studies and working life. There are about 320 youth workshops in Finland. In current youth work, the focus is shifting to methods based on community youth work and preventive youth work, e.g. experience and adventure pedagogy. Other new work forms include municipal youth councils and various tele-democratic projects. Their aim is to make young people more interested in social decision-making. Furthermore, guided afternoon activities are being organised for schoolchildren, as they might otherwise have to spend their afternoons unaccompanied by adults while their parents work. Finnish youth organisations have traditionally been large and strong, but recently more open-form youth activity groups have been emerging alongside the traditional organisations. The Ministry of Education grants annual subsidies to 85 national youth organisations and youth work organisations, which have 7500 local associations and 840,000 members. In terms of membership, the largest youth organisations are the Scouts and Guides of Finland, various student organisations and schoolchildren’s organisations.

Young in Aland: Aland is an autonomous, demilitarised and unilingual Swedish speaking province in Finland located in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden. Young peoples’ life in Aland Islands, an autonomous province in Finland, differs a lot from that in the mainland. To live on an island gives both a feeling of security and isolation. There are many activities for youth in Aland. We have the Music School giving education on a high level to many young enthusiastic students. Many young people are interested in sports, with football, indoor bandy, and riding among the most popular branches. There is a great interest in computers too. We have several associations for young people. There are centres where youths at ages 13-16 can meet in the evenings. Association SKUNK focuses on strengthening, developing and arranging activities for young people in the archipelago. Project Katapult works with unemployed youths helping them to find a meaningful job or education. There are also problem areas. Aland is a transit land with many ferries visiting daily our ports, and thus making it easier to sell and buy drugs and alcohol. This serious problem needs immediate measures. Another problem is the equality between girls and boys when funding activities.

Finland is sometimes called ‘the promised land of civil society’. We have a strong tradition of all kinds of organisations. Almost every young person is a member in at least one organisation, be it a hobby, school, political, human rights, or international affairs organisation. In PISA (OECD Programme for International Student Assessment 2004), Finnish students showed significantly higher knowledge in mathematics, sciences and reading literacy achievements, than any other OECD country. There is, in fact, not one single explanation for the result. Rather, the successful performance of Finnish students seems to be attributable to a web of interrelated factors having to do with comprehensive pedagogy, students’ own interests and leisure activities, the structure of the educational system, teacher training, school practices and Finnish culture. However the ethos of managing on your own characterises Finnish culture, and without any doubt, it also effects students´ work at school. Participation in decision-making on mutual matters is not considered as important and pleasant but more as an unpleasant duty. When reaching voting-age this culminates in a low youth voting percentage. At the same time, according to researches, young people long for participation and involvement in different communities. This problem does not pertain only to Finland but to the entire western culture. Concerns about youth unemployment, increase of mental troubles, problems with intoxicants and the result of all these – risk of alienation, are often topics in common discussions. The immigration to Finland is expected to grow in the next few years and continuous work to diminish racism and encourage tolerance is yet to be done amongst Finnish youth.