Students wobble over financial problems

One in four Swedish students has considered quitting education because of financial problems, according to a report from Sif, Sweden's largest white-collar union.

In response, education minister Lars Leijonborg has promised an inquiry into students’ finances.

“I am now in the process of putting in place an inquiry into social benefits for students which will partly look at the regulations. It will happen after the holiday,” he said.

Almost a third of the 1,400 students interviewed for the survey said that they could not manage an unexpected payment of 1,000 kronor.

“It’s serious that financial difficulties are still an obstacle to studying. Because of this, we risk a skills shortage which threatens positive commercial growth,” said Sif chairman Mari-Ann Krantz.

“The labour market requires lifelong learning,” she added.

Half of those questioned worked full time for at least two years before beginning their studies. The worry for these people, according to Sif, is that they will lose their accumulated unemployment benefits.

In presenting the figures, Sif called for the five year ‘grace period’, in which accumulated benefits are retained, to be extended to seven years. The union argues that students who have previously worked risk losing their benefits if they cannot complete their studies in the normal time.

“People who invest in studies must be able to focus on them without constant worries about making ends meet. Current rules must be changed because they mean that students fall between two stools in the social security system,” said Mari-Ann Krantz.

However, Lars Leijonborg rejected any changes to the unemployment benefit rules for students.

“We have a different priority. If you want to support the transfer from studies to work it is important that there is work. The good news for Sweden’s students is that there are more summer jobs this year than there have been any year since 1988,” he said.