Polish graduates struggle to find jobs in free-market system

April 25, 2003

Students graduating from Polish universities are finding it increasingly difficult to find employment, according to government statistics.

Figures from the ministry of economy, labour and social policy show that the number of university graduates registered as unemployed rose from 60,000 in 2001 to 95,000 in 2002.

Overall, unemployment has been rising steadily, with official government statistics showing an increase from 0.3 per cent in January 1990 to the current figure of about 18.7 per cent, largely as a result of the transition from the state-run economy to the free-market system.

It was hoped that widespread investment in universities would improve employability in a competitive labour market. But the government is concerned about the rapid growth of unemployment among graduates.

Marek Szczepanski, under-secretary of state at theministry of economy, said: "Last year, there was a huge influx of graduates onto the labour market and many of them found it difficult to find work.

"In the past two years, the high levels of unemployment have forced many graduates to accept badly paid positions."

Agnieszka Sokolinska, a careers adviser at the Silesian University in Katowice, said that high levels of unemployment meant her students were forced to increase their extracurricular skills.

"To find a job, graduates have to offer more - they have to be enterprising, ambitious and have foreign languages. A degree is no longer enough," she said.

Tomasz Kwiatkowski, who graduated in social sciences from Silesian in 2001, said: "Sometimes I think I shouldn't have started my study. I should have looked for a job straight after high school."

But university graduates are still more likely to find employment than those who have completed secondary schoolonly.

The failure to mobilise the skills of the graduate workforce is being addressed by the government.

It is implementing a scheme that encourages graduates to set up their own businesses by offering tax and insurance privileges.

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