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University of Copenhagen
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Comment: 'Year of slacking' keeps me off welfare

It tires me that the additional year of the student grant is being called a 'year of slacking'. My education does not prepare me for the labor market. I need to do unpaid internships, on top of a part-time job, if I am to be prepared for the labor market when I graduate.

I really want to be hired when I finish my degree in a year. Actually, nothing worries me more than ending up in a limbo of unemployment benefits after I graduate. With a total of 18.5 years of education, it would sadden me if the society was best served by paying me to do nothing.

Distinguishing yourself from the rest

My education cannot secure the job I wish for. While I am substantially closer to the business world with a degree in Digital Design and Communication, than when I was studying a bachelor degree in Humanities, my education does not come with one distinct career path or a guarantee for employment.

In times of high youth unemployment, such as the current ones, it seems that it is minor things that decide whether you get a job. This is why work experience is becoming an increasingly important part of being a student. It is how we can be distinguished from other recent graduates, enabling us to compete with them for employment.

Should I work 60 hours a week?

Many universities will not transfer more than 15 ECTS – the equivalent of half a semester’s worth of education – for a full time internship. This makes it difficult to complete your degree within the standard time limit, if you want to take an internship, as the time spent on the internship will not be fully represented on the diploma.

Most student jobs for master students that I have come across, have working hours between 15 and 20 hours a week. This includes ministerial jobs, offered by the government. The government, therefore, seems to expect that you work these hours, while rushing to finish a full time degree at the same time. That does not add up.

I have a student job in a ministry for 15–20 hours a week myself, which I am very fond of. But combined with a full time graduate degree (40 hours a week), it adds up to a 55–60 hour workweek. I am certain that it would not be good for either my education or my job, if I attempted to carry that out in practice. I have therefore chosen to take one class less per semester so far to ensure an optimal performance in both places.

Even though we are encouraged to take a student job, the 15-20-hour student jobs are not sufficiently incorporated in the standard time limit. This is despite the fact that it, as stated, becomes increasingly important to have a student job to qualify yourself for a full time position when you graduate.

‘The year of slacking’ is labour market preparation

The way I see it, there are some structural problems of combining a graduate degree, an internship and a student job, the way the education system works now. This means that the reasonable, qualifying choice in Denmark today precisely is to delay your studies to learn and educate yourself sufficiently for the demands and expectations of the labour market.

It therefore makes more sense to call the additional year of the student grants a ‘year of qualification’ rather than a ‘year of slacking’, because honestly, that is how we spend it: Preparing ourselves for a labour market which is difficult to access, and where amounts of recently qualified and other unemployed compete for few jobs.

I am tired of being called someone that ‘slacks’ when I spend an additional half a year of the grant getting qualified. I do it to avoid ending up receiving the unemployment benefit – a costlier national economic solution than the State educational grant. And I call for a better understanding of what it means to be a student during a financial crisis.

So dear politicians, if you want us to complete our education within the standard time limit, then give us an education that can qualify us for a job within the standard time limit. Implement full ECTS for internships, or reserve a special State educational grant for those who wish to take an internship. Reduce the work hours of the qualifying student jobs, or reduce the time of study a bit on the graduate degree. We urgently need the qualification the work experience gives us.

Make it possible for us both to become qualified, ready for the labour market and to complete our studies within the standard time limit – because it is not possible as the situation is now.

This comment was originally brought on Read the original version ‘Jeg bruger fjumreåret til at undgå at ende på dagpenge’ .

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