Candidate blog: The future of the Social and healthcare sectors and the vital role of SAMOK
The pandemic period highlighted the importance of social and healthcare sectors worldwide. The pandemic has also highlighted and increased the existing shortage of workers in those sectors. Employee shortages in Finland are caused by the aging population and a decrease in the sector’s attractiveness due to poor working conditions and low wages.
Students studying in social and healthcare fields must accept compulsory unpaid internships during their studies. After their studies, they face poor livelihoods and wage trends. In social and healthcare fields, a significant part of the salary consists of supplements, which means sacrificing leisure social contacts.
UAS have long been forced to pay for social and healthcare internships. Nationwide, payments consist of several million euros. Although the price tag for a degree per student has decreased, factors such as increasing group sizes and the level and quality of teaching have not been able to develop efficiently.
Efforts have been made to address the shortage of social care and healthcare workers by bringing nursing students to Finland from abroad. These students complete approximately 1.5-2 years of studies in Finland. During their studies, they learn Finnish work methods and the Finnish language. In principle, these commissioned courses could help with Finland’s growing shortage of nurses. However, sufficient resources have not been added to organise commissioned courses. Existing degrees will be further burdened. The number of students and the challenges it brings has increased, but resources have not.
On September 1st, in the government budget discussions, the right decision was finally made to transfer the internship fees to the state. There has been a need to improve the professional competence of graduates in the sectors. The budgetary decision now frees additional resources to the UAS to develop the level and quality of teaching. The level and quality of education can be developed, for example, through acquiring additional qualified teachers and effective teaching and learning tools. Any resources that can tangibly improve the quality of teaching are welcomed in the social care and healthcare fields and will increase the sector’s appeal. In the future, I hope that social care and healthcare students will also be able to get paid for their internships, as in almost all other tertiary fields.
Just when the future was starting to look bright, Parliament passed the Patient Safety Act, more commonly known as the Forced Labour Act, which restricts nurses from taking action and can even be forced to work in certain situations. This decision negatively affects the already burdened health and social care sector, reducing its appeal and lowering students’ motivation in the field. Many students have considered moving abroad after their studies; others do not want to apply for Valvira permits. Some of the students are also considering dropping out of their studies.
Professionals who have worked for a longer time in the social care and healthcare sector report that this is the third time in 30 years that nurses have been forced to work with this method. The previous times have been in 2007 and before that 1995. The same problems reoccur from year to year without much change. So, will this same problem happen again in about 15 years?
Next year’s parliamentary elections will be crucial to the social care and healthcare sector. Will we finally get those MPs who manage to tackle the problem in Parliament? Would the future Parliament be able to support developments in the sectors from teaching to work life? SAMOK has to lobby for the correct people to Parliament.
Writer: Adel Rizvi, candidate for SAMOK’s president of the board for 2023