Holmström: Finland must take action to restore number of university graduates

Bengt Holmström, the recipient of the 2016 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, took part in a panel discussion at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on 10 August, 2017.

Bengt Holmström, a Finnish-born professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), has voiced his concern about future generations in Finland - writes helsinkitimes.

“It was a big shock to me to hear in June that Finland is actually heading in avery bad direction in the field of high education,” he stated in a panel discussion at Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on Thursday, urging policy makers to take immediate action to restore the number of highly educated people.

The Ministry of Education and Culture in 2014 reported that the share of highly educated people is on the decline in all age groups under the age of 35 and is about to begin declining also in the 35–39 age group after peaking in 2013.Holmström reminded that in some age groups the share of highly educated people has dwindled steadily since the early1980s.

Holmström admitted that the statistics may be biased but added that that alone would not account for “such a dramatic collapse”.

“It was kind of a wake-up call for me, the alarm bells really started ringing,” he said.

He estimated that the situation could be addressed with relatively simple and sensible decisions, if only there was the political will to do so. “This is a message to policy makers,” confirmed Holmström.

Finland should not only do more to look after young people but also demand more of them, according to Holmström. He estimated that many students treat their degree programmes like “parking spaces” where they wait until they are admitted to a programme they find more interesting, such as law or medicine.

“I can’t understand how we can tolerate this. It’s totally irresponsible of us to tolerate this. We must change this immediately,” he stated.

“This really is an embarrassment. It’s a problem we’ve created ourselves, because the situation isn’t the same even in continental Europe, let alone in England or the United States. I believe we must tackle this immediately.”

Holmström also expressed his concern about the considerable sustainability deficit and pension burden in Finland. The current situation, he estimated, is encouraging young people to mull over whether they want to shoulder their share of the burden or move somewhere where burden is not as overwhelming and where the climate is warmer.

He added that the generation he represents, the post-war generation, has been selfish.

“Our parents fought in a war, whereas we’ve got to pluck the fruits [of their efforts] and we’re are also eating away the fruits of the next generation,” he told.

Holmström was born in Helsinki in 1949. He and Oliver Hart, a professor of economics at Harvard University, were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2016 for their work on contract theory.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

Photo: Anni Reenpää – Lehtikuva

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