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Sweden allocates billions to fight unemployment

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13:01 CEST+02:00
The Swedish government has promised to find 8.4 billion kronor ($1.19 billion) to fund education and training measures designed to combat growing unemployment.

The four Alliance government parties have announced after talks that 4.5 billion kronor will be allocated for an additional 23,000 training places in 2010 and 2011, and a further 3.9 billion kronor on 54,000 places in various employment measure schemes for the unemployed.

Around two billion kronor of the funds will be spent on creating 40,000 places in a new activation programme which within state, county council and non-profit organizations is being called "Lyft"(Lift).

"Lyft" should be made available for a maximum of six months for people currently engaged within the work and development guarantee, and for three months for young unemployed.

The initiative will be focused on sectors such as the environment, forestry, cultural heritage, health and welfare and schools.

The Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen) will be given an additional 600 million kronor.

620 million kronor will be used to create 2,000 new places within coaching, work experience and practical skills development. 225 million will fund 1,000 new places in labour market training schemes.

The package of measures also includes a specific investment for Folk High Schools which will cover 1,000 training places and will cost 51 million kronor.

Two billion kronor will underwrite 10,000 new places within both academic and vocational education at adult education colleges.

440 million kronor has been allocated to 3,000 new places within vocational high school from the autumn of 2010 and 2011. A total of 6,000 people will therefore be able to undergo courses.

Two billion kronor will be spent on the creation of new university places in 2010 and 2011. The money equates to a 20 percent increase in university and university college intake.

Education minister Jan Björklund concedes that the government parties were critical of the expansion of places while in opposition but pointed out that their initiative promises more money per student.

"It is better that the young study than loaf about in times of unemployment," Björklund said.

"There is a risk that a third of the unemployed get stuck and remain in some form of unemployment," the prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt told a press conference in Stockholm on Wednesday.

"The core strategy to meet this is with education, often vocational, and active labour market policies."

Fredrik Reinfeldt denied that the government is massaging unemployment statistics by shifting people to labour market measures - a charge often levied at the previous Social Democrat government.

"What we criticized the Social Democrats for is that they had their comprehensive labour market measures during economic booms. They did not withdraw them when the good times returned. People were then just left sitting at the school desk."

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