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The unemployed coach potato and watershed of the future

Lauri Hannus, Communications Manager

Our extensive survey looks at the other sides of the myths and tells us what Finns have done during unemployment. The majority of unemployed people has been active despite the discouraging pandemic, but concerns are attached to part of the young people.

There it creeps again, somewhere among the Bigfoots and goblins: the age-old coach potato. An unemployed person who just lets the days run by without grabbing them in any way.

The conversation about unemployment in Finland is home to a resilient mythical creature, which has certainly been reinforced by some individual people who have announced themselves as ideological unemployed. In these conversations, the scales have happily gone haywire, and some have started to see these kind of loiterers everywhere. Many are talking about this topic without really knowing the diverse and surprisingly burdening day-to-day life of unemployment and job searching.

The myths are resilient, but luckily they can be busted by knowledge. We once again used our Member Pulse survey to get an overview on the situation and ideas of our members, and this time we received more than 20,000 responses. 69% of the respondents have experienced unemployment, which means that with one survey, we got an overview of the unemployment experiences of more than 13,000 Finns – for which we thank all the respondents. What exactly did the results say? Let's take a look.

The majority searches for jobs and invest in their well-being

We asked the unemployed respondents and respondents having previously experienced unemployment about their unemployment activities with the question "What do you do/did you do actively about the following during your own unemployment?". Idleness wasn't on top of the list. The alternative to “Nothing in particular” was actually at the end of the list: only 9% of respondents replied that.

Which things were at the top of the list then?

  • 61% of the respondents said they had actively applied for a job
  • 47% invested in their own well-being, e.g. through physical activity
  • 27% invested in social life, e.g. by spending more time with family and friends
  • 22% studied in connection to their own profession or developed their own skills otherwise.

In addition to these, 15% said they had studied a completely new profession, 15% had worked part-time and 11% spent the time rehabilitating.

Young people are mostly active, but some withdraw

Although all respondent groups have been predominantly active during periods of unemployment, statistically significant differences are drawn between age groups and genders. Women and persons aged under 35 have been more active during a period of unemployment. 64% of women said they had actively applied for jobs, compared to 57% of men. In turn, part-time work accumulated for young people: One in four persons aged 25 to 43 had worked alongside unemployment, while only 13% of those aged over 45.

While all kinds of activities and self-improvement are emphasized among persons under the age of 35, the number of 18 to 24-year-olds was also highest among those (24%) who said that they had expected a job offer from the TE Office. 11% of the respondents in all age groups chose this option. Thus, although there were few passive waiters for a job offer, these were highlighted in the youngest age group. The under-25-year-olds were also highlighted among those who replied that they had done nothing special.

The result supports the repeated observation that the situation of young adults is twofold. Even when faced with unemployment, the under 25-year-olds seem to be divided into active self-developers and those who stay on the sidelines and wait for their turn.

How do we get out of the corona wrap?

Of course, the results cannot be viewed without taking into consideration the corona situation. During the pandemic, the labour market has not performed well, and mass unemployment has been a normal situation around the world. Right now, the economy is taking off, but the survey shows a reality shaped by the coronavirus: a rigid, uncertain and stagnant world that mistreats especially those who do not yet have much wealth, networks or status in the labour market. Meaning young people. Passiveness is an understandable reaction in a situation where there is no response to one's own efforts.

In view of this, I believe that the results give us hope for the future. For the majority of respondents, active job search and self-development go hand in hand. On the other hand, the threat of isolation associated with the long pandemic is worryingly high, especially among young unemployed people for whom job search is mainly about waiting for a job offer. There are far fewer of them than active ones, but it's worth taking an interest in them.

It is comforting, however, that according to our second survey report, unemployment does not reduce the interest of recruitment professionals in the applicant, instead, unemployment is considered to be a very normal thing, especially after a pandemic. This information also gives hope to young jobseekers: the labour market is already performing better, and there is no need to be ashamed of unemployment in a job interview.