Universal public job retraining program



This topic–public programs to provide job retraining services to people who have lost their jobs–doesn’t get a lot of attention in the US. However, in countries with stronger welfare states, these programs are very large and very important.


Very little information about these programs. Yet they are immensely important to the functioning of these economies; Denmark spends a massive 2.2% of GDP on job retraining while the US spends 0.1%. Other Nordics spend ~1%.


This is in addition to cash unemployment benefits



  • Universal to all documented residents who are unemployed or about to become unemployed
  • Immigrants can learn Finnish or Swedish
  • Help with job hunting
  • Learn a new profession based on available jobs (ie if bricklayers are in demand, they will teach you to become a bricklayer
  • If training is not available in Finland (eg nurses) government will pay for you to attend training in another country
  • Travel compensation if you don’t live close enough to job training site
  • You can go back to college if there are currently job opportunities in your chosen field of study, but you have to pay course fees
  • No time limits (I think, based on information available in English)



  • Universal to all documented workers having difficulty finding a job due to lack of qualifications, or are at risk of becoming unemployed due to lack of qualifications, or need assistance reentering workforce from family leave
  • Classes are determined based on labor market trends in your area
  • Education or training is tailored to needs/skills of unemployed worker
  • Must be 26 or older to go back to school
  • Benefits last 10 months, but can be extended 6 months if:
    • You are in college and need more time to graduate
    • You are in the middle of a job training program
    • You are still having trouble finding work
  • On the job training available to those with little/no job experience or people with impaired work capacity
    • Duration is based on needs of applicant, but maximum 12 months or 18 months for people with work impairments
    • Employer can get “inclusion subsidy” if there are costs to adapt workplace to work impaired person


These benefits are universal. Everyone is eligible for these benefits. If a millionaire loses her job, she is still eligible for public job retraining benefits.


“Flexicurity”: You are guaranteed a job, but not your current job. We’re not going to protect the current employment dying industries, but we will protect their employment by ensuring they are retrained.


The size of the programs is misleading. Nordics spend far more on job retraining per capita. But, except Sweden, Nordics have a far lower unemployment rate. This means that–not only is spending per capita much higher than here–but the job retraining spending per unemployed person is higher still.


Discussion questions:

  1. How does universal job retraining help combat capitalism’s perpetuation of employment discrimination, racial, gender, etc?
    • Coupled with public employment (which hires a disproportionate amount of women and POC in all western countries) and other policies–socializes the negative effects of private sector discrimination.
  2. How does this policy help combat racial/nativist appeals of capitalist politicians?
    • When people think that there’s not enough help to go around, it’s easy to get them to be racist/nativist. If this policy can take away people’s anxieties about finding their next job, the (unfortunately) rational appeals to racial politics stop making sense.
  3. How does universal job retraining help build solidarity among the poorest 99%?
    • Everyone eligible for the same program builds solidarity between blue collar/white collar/professional class. Everyone has vested interest in defending these programs.
  4. How could universal job retraining services be a powerful tool in the fight against climate change?
    • If we eliminated all fossil fuel-intensive industries, this would result in massive job loss. We already protect dying industries in order to prevent job losses. If people were secure in the fact that they would have the help they needed to find a job if they lost their current job, it would be easier to eliminate these harmful industries.
  5. Democratic socialists can use social policy to create conditions which make people’s lives better and also undermine capitalism (a non-reformist reform). What are the ways in which this policy could be used as a NRR?
    • We’re intervening quite strongly in the economy, justifying the right of the public to do so. It highlights class conflict between employers and employees; employers clearly are not trusted with the welfare of their employees. By creating a popular program, working people of different classes see common interests with each other, start cooperating with each other.
  6. What are the ways in which this policy is not a good NRR?
    • This is a much weaker NRR than most other universal welfare programs because the policy is specifically designed to make the capitalist system function more smoothly.