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Layoffs hit Sweden's schools

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Layoffs hit Sweden's schools
09:55 CET+01:00
Teachers are in danger of losing their jobs in roughly one third of Sweden’s 290 municipalities, a sign that the weak economy is now set to take its toll on the country’s schools.

“This is just a glimpse of what we can expect to see in 2010,” said Andreas Mörck of Sweden's National Union of Teachers (Lärarnas Riksförbund).

There have been numerous reports of municipalities giving notice to their teachers about impending layoffs, but the scope of the potential job losses in among Sweden’s educators only became clear following a new report compiled by the union.

So far, around 1,000 teachers across the country have already been given notice.

The expected job losses affect teachers in one in three municipalities, with Boden, Luleå, and Piteå in the north, along with Gävle in the east, and Alvesta in the south, being the hardest hit.

An additional 500 teachers are expected to be given notice, according to the report.

Of the teachers who have already been given notice, about 300 have already lost their jobs. A few hundred other positions have also been eliminated by not replacing them.

The figures, which are taken from the union representatives in the municipalities, cover up through February, but are already out of date.

“In the last couple of weeks a lot has happened. There have been new – and like in Luleå – widespread notices given,” said Mörck, who added that the union has never seen anything comparable to the current wave of teacher layoffs.

The job loss notices are even larger and in quicker succession then those experienced during the economic crisis of the early 1990s.

The eventual scope of the redundancies remains to be seen. But the fact that 300 teachers have already lost their jobs is an ominous sign, according to Mörck.

“Earlier things have almost always worked out, but now we’re seeing that the notices are leading to redundancies. This is a clear break with previous trends. Schools are no longer protected,” he said.

Some of the layoffs depend on falling enrollment, but the main culprit is the effect the weak economy is having in municipality finances, according to the union.

“There’s a palpable nervousness and worry in the municipalities that they won’t survive the economic crisis. I’m afraid that they are going ahead with notices and layoffs because they don’t think they have enough money to operate schools in the way they should,” said union chair Metta Fjelkner.

Both she and Mörck warn that there will be more cuts in school budgets next year due to reduced tax income.

At the same time, a number of school reforms are to be implemented, which will demand more time and energy from teachers.

“Those who ended up paying for the crisis in the 1990s were those who started school then. They’ve just finished ninth grade and now we are seeing the lowest marks ever – nearly 12 percent don’t qualify to enter high school,” she said.

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