Student Work in Slovenia

No money, no caption 🙂

Having been irked by Sunshine’s post on the issue, I think it is only fair that I post some thoughts on the subject of student work. First, the very basics. Slovenia has two parallel labour markets. The “regular” one and another one, reserved solely for students. The theory behind it is, that the student labour market should function both as a social corrective for undepriviliged studensts and as an organised scalp hunting ground, where students would meet their prospective employers and vice versa.

Students in Slovenia enjoy numerous benefits, cheif among them are social and health insurance paid by the state. This plays an important role in hiring students as a temp-workforce, since employers don’t have to pay for students’ social and health services, nor do students contribute to the public pension fund. Furthermore, students’ income is not subject to taxation unless it reaches the income census (some € 6600 on a yearly basis). So both students and employers are keen to enter the student labour market.

This is all theory, of course. The question is, does it work in pratice? Well, you might be surprised, but it actually does. Students either find summer-, temp-, or even full time jobs on student labour market, thus greatly improving their income and quality of life – not to mention accumulation experience and generating contacts which might come in handy when they’ll need a “real” job.

Well, it works most of the time, anyway. The problem is that employers are obviously keen on cutting down cost of labour so they tend to take full advantage of the student labour market. So if you’re young and looking for a regular job, the first thing your prospective employer will ask you if you can work on “napotnica”, which is a euphemism of employing you as a student, rather than giving you a full time job.

For the uninitiated: a “napotnica” is a slip of paper (in quadruplicate) which serves as a proof of employement, as a report of student’s work and as a student’s summary of income earned. It is in fact the only paperwork you need to employ a student. It is also much more of a hassle to deal with than it seems at first.

This obviously de-stimulates the would-be employees, who are looking for a real job, which brings other benefits, chief among them the fact that you can a) finally apply for a credit line at a bank and b) start accumulating years of employment, which will after decades of hard work make you eligible for a pension (albeit a meagre one). Most of the time young people – especially those who are not, how shall I put it, cremé de la cremé (and I’m being euphemistic here) – will take any job, as long as it brings money. Mostly because they know that if they don’t, someone else will. The employers are obviously aware of this fact and are often willing to wait for the “cheapest” candidate and not the one with most potential.

On the other hand, the employers are experiencing a growing trend of self-important students, who will not take the job unless it pays an expected ammount of money. The students (and I’m talking about students here, and not young people looking for full time jobs) are taking full advantage of the fact that employers will rather employ a student than give the job to a non-student, for the reasons cited above. So what we have here is prospective employers want to (but don’t have to) employ students as cheap labour and prospective employees (studens) who want to (but don’t have to) work. And in the end it comes down to a neo-liberalist’s dream. A lassez-faire labour market, the likes of which Ležalnik advocated while commenting on Michael M.’s rant on taxes

Which of course only works for as long as you need highly educated but almost totally unskilled workforce. In the long run this spells doom both for students and for the comapnies hiring them. When students run out of options for student work (for the reasons cited at the beginning), they suddenly find out how hard it is to get a real job, because they’re 26 years old, don’t have a single year of work experience (only years in which you have contributed to the pension fund count, officially), most of the jobs they can apply for are already taken by other – younger – students, and there they stand, suddenly realizing that they’re half-way to mid-life crisis, with nothing to show for and a distant prospect of retiring at the tender age of 66 at the earliest.

I know, I’ve been there.

So my advice to students would be to find a student job and then to do your damnest to keep it full-time at least for a couple of years. It’ll make you hugely popular with people from human resources departaments and give you the edge against your competition.

My advice to HRM people: stop going ga-ga over student workforce. Yes, you can hire five students for one full-time employee, but they are also five times less reliable in the long run, because they have to deal with exams, heartbreak, long summer breaks, hangover and/or Weltschmertz. Yes, they’re easier to fire, but then you just have to go through the entire process again. Is it really worth it?

And my advice to employers: Student work force saves you the monies you’d have to spend of social- and health care, but you only spend 16% out of worker’s gross paycheck on Sozialversiecherung Sozialversicherung. The remaining 22 % go out of workers’ pocekts, so you’re better off. Plus, you can squeeze a “regular” worker harder then you could ever squeeze a student. Because if you ask that little extra of a student, he/she will usually claim exams, heartbreak, long summer breaks, hangover and/or Weltschmertz.

Oh, and I do have one favour to ask of the government: Could you, by any chance, cook up something more than just token incentives for employing people full-time? Pretty please? You know, since it is an election year, and all… 😈

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

26 thoughts on “Student Work in Slovenia”

  1. Because I am curious: did you mean the pun in SozialverSIECHerung? (dahin siechen – to waste away)?

    I don’t think it is only “real jobs” that count as experience – every employer knows students do student jobs and should be able to evaluate the importance of their related experiences appropriately.

    As I said at Sunshine’s: I would probably finish my studies with great difficulty, if at all, were it not for my student jobs. And I had the Zois Grant…

    But the way you depict the whole situation, it becomes even more obvious that the situation is a very very complex one. Almost comparable to health insurance systems, which can also never do justice to everyone involved.

    And since I talked about Germany and other countries at Sunshine’s: the problem with companies not wanting to employ first-time job seekers after they have finished studying is also a well-known one here. The only real solution seems to be the ever-growing lack of qualified workforce. It is also the reason we are going to work till 67 – the law wants us to pay a bit more and longer into the pension pot.

  2. Unfortunatelly, no, I didn’t mean the pun 🙂 It is a good one, but I’ll take no credit for it. Dully corrected. Thanks 😀

    As for the rest: As I said in the beggining- one of the functions of the student labour market is to function as a social corrective for underpriviliged students who can earn that extra cash needed to make it through the studies.

    And of course you can’t please everybody, so I think everyone needs to show a little restraint. But with neoliberalists on the rise everywhere in the world, this is of course a fool’s dream.

    I might, however, have a solution for the pension pot, as well… I’ll probably post on it tommorow.

  3. Oh, what a pity! It was actually a really, really good pun, one that even Germans would approve of, I think. I am serious.

    But anyway, till reading your post above I wasn’t aware how complicated the situation actually is…

  4. The governemnt should create conditions in which students could study (HARD) without having to work. Let’s just abolish student work altogether.

  5. @Luka: I see where you’re getting at… What I’m trying to say is that there is no financial incentive to work and study if you’re older than 26.

    @dr. filomena: I strongly disagree with the last sentence, but I also strongly support the first sentence 😀

  6. Students can study hard, but they choose not to. Why would you want to finish your studies? Maybe because you are eager to:
    – not have lots of free time
    – not make 2 months long travels around the world
    – not eat 2€ lunches every day
    – not pay less for public transport
    – not pay less for a bunch of other things
    – pay taxes
    – pay for social and health security
    – start an unsuccessful job hunt…

    No wonder people study until they are bald and gray. Conditions that would press students to study hard would be removing all of the above and start paying for your education. 🙂

  7. The way I see it, it is the students’ job/work to study and study hard. They should not be losing time and wasting energy working some menial jobs (hey, hire the highschool dropouts for those). If they have to work, in ideal world that would mean being involved with their future profession. Heck, I’ll stick my neck out and say they should work for free in positions leading to their future (quite deservingly well-paid) jobs, gathering valuable experience along the way.

    That said, I shouldn’t cast any stones, really.

  8. @Ležalnik: You wrote just about the most nonsensical thing ever. Things that you cited in your comment are incentives. And if you removed those, noone would study anymore, because it would just no be economically viable.

    And people no longer study until they’re bald and grey… I studied for four years and then it took me two years to get my diploma and by the time I offically graduated I was among the last of my generation to have done so. And that was a couple of years ago.

    What people do nowadays, is they go postgrad, but you loose most incentives anyway, because as I said, once you’re 26, you’re out.

    @dr. fil: Yes, provided that everyone had free and unfethered access to university studies. But many students simply can’t make it financially if they don’t have a temp-job while studying.

  9. @P: Right. Which is what brings us to my point on the role of the Government in this case. I recently listened to a radio interview with a guy who took out a huge loan to go study abroad for 2 years (full time hard studies, no waitering jobs involved) and was able to pay it up within 6 months of completing the studies as his know-how was that much in demand… Respect.

  10. Things that I cited are incentives to have “status študenta” not to study harder :). They do make life easier for the students but they do not in any way push them to study hard and finish quickly, quite the opposite. And saying that people will not study if they do not have these benefits is …well… I dont agree. People that would drop studies as a consequence to that are people that started just to get them. The reasons people should and do study are things like higher expected salary (so it does pay to study), personal satisfaction and fulfilment etc.
    And the average time for a slovenian student to get a diploma is higher than elsewhere (sorry, cant remember the source).

  11. @dr. fil: Respect! 😀

    @Ležalnik: Wrong! It seems that you assume that everyone has the same starting point when studying. As alcessa already noted, that is not so.

    You are right about one thing, though… I can totally imagine why people don’t get a diploma earlier…. Because they would end up at an uneployement centre anyway. According to this, most unemployed graduates are between 26 and 27 years old, meaning that they graduate only when they have to, because their incentives ran out.

    But you don’t force people to study hard by taking away the incentives with which you made them start the studies in the first place. What is reqired is to promote employment of young people with little or no experience, and somehow make employers stop relying on student labour force.

  12. 🙂 again, people that study only for the benefits are people that study until they are bald and gray. Incentives should not be the reason for studying but just a little help along the way. I’m aware that students dont have the same backgrounds, so this help should only go to those that need it.
    The way to make employers stop employing students is either make labour market as flexible as student market or make student labour market as rigid as normal labour market. I can’t see any of this happening in the near future, because making changes here means loosing political points.
    BTW, do you know there (it’s a rethorical question:) ) are many students that pay tuition for their education and we don’t hear a word from them? They are called “izredni študenti” 😀

  13. And how do you propose to make regular labour market to become as flexible as the student one? The prime reason for employment of students is the fact that they’re cheaper, because the state takes care of their social and health insurance.

    Re: bald and grey: As I said – benefits cease when you’re 26. Regardless of whether you’ve graduated or not. So your argument is worthless in this respect.

    Incentives are there precisely to make people go to university. I mean, some people would still go to university regardless of the incentives, but most people would be sort of indecided – it’s like that graph you cited during debate over at Carniola: When do you say “it simply isn’t worht it”. And belive me, if you’re faced with a social problem, you don’t exactly dwell the finer points of education and personal fulfillment.

    Re: Izredni študenti. I know. They’re every university’s bad conscience. But at least they can apply for student jobs as well.

  14. It’s not just costs. Another prime reason is the fact that an employer can say to a student: “We don’t need you tomorrow.” or “Next week we only need you on Monday for two hours.” I think this is even more important for employers. A few € up or down difference in salary is not as big deal as it is to hire someone full time knowing you won’t need him all the time and that you can not just say goodbye. I’m no even proposing to make regular labour market as flexible as student market since job security will go down the drains. I’m more incilned to vice versa, why is student work any different from any other type of work?
    The basic missunderstanding we have is why people study 😀 you say because of the cheap lunch coupons etc… I say to get better (and better paid) jobs and personal gratification. You have definite economical benefits is you have a diploma. You personally will have a higher salary. On the other hand, why wouldn’t a full time worker that has a family and earns 600€ a month get the same benefits as students do :)? Why does he have to pay taxes from which students get cheaper meals. What’s in it for him 🙂 ?

  15. I’d agree with Lezalnik. The various ‘benefits’ are ridiculous and only encourage people to exploit the system. Why couldn’t we have incentives only for the duration of your uni course? So if a course lasts three years, you’d be entitled to (some of?) these benefits for three years and no longer than that (when you’re 26, you should be finishing off your doctorate if you’re still at uni!). If you don’t finish in three years, you should lose all perks and start paying much higher tuition fees. There’s absolutely no reason why students who can’t cope with uni courses should be rewarded for it.
    And tuition fees are in general a great idea, I think, provided that they’re done in a sensible way, such as here in the UK. The home/EU tuition fee is set to about 3100 pounds (which is still heavily subsidised by the government, but is a sensible enough fee), but students only have to paying for it *after* they’ve got a job that pays over such-and-such an amount per year. This system is good because:
    – you strive harder because it’s your (future) money at stake
    – you aim for a uni course that has good employment prospects (and not something daft like ‘media studies’ that no one cares about) – this would also avoid people going to university just because it’s fashionable to do so even if they don’t need a degree for their chosen career path
    – your financial situation is irrelevant because you only pay the fee after you’ve started earning your own money (and lots of bursaries are available for those less well-off to help pay for accommodation, food etc)

    Umm, that was off topic, I think. Back on track now. My university *prohibits* students from working during term time. You’re expected to spend about 50 hours a week on your subject, and the university thinks there’s no way you can work alongside your degree course without your academic performance suffering as a result. If you can’t afford to study here, they *give* you the money, but they still don’t let you work during term time.
    You can work during the Christmas and Easter holidays, but only if it doesn’t affect your academic performance, and of course you can work over the summer. So you still have a lot of time to get some work experience, and especially during the summer you don’t have any obligations (all exams are in June and if you don’t pass them all the first time round, the uni kicks you out – so yay, no autumn exams to worry about!).

    I think this model is a lot better than the Slovene one, since students don’t take over regular work during the academic year, whilst still being able to get some relevant experience through a summer placement, or of course by participating in volunteer organisations or student societies.
    (Of course the system is different in every university, so I can’t speak for the UK as a whole. Naturally, any work you end up doing is taxed as per normal – but companies are nevertheless quite keen to take on students because they can get their pick of the very best at the end and thus end up with the top people – which is obviously good for business.)

    The main problem in Slovenia is with the rigid legislation on work and the unbelievable strength of trade unions (their leaders should be shot or something for all the harm they’ve caused).
    Oh, and of course the dysfunctional university model with age-old professors lecturing on wholly out-of-date topics. (At least in the natural sciences that’s the case; I’m not familiar with other courses, but I suspect it’s not much better.)

    Umm, I’ve re-read what I’d written and it doesn’t make all that much sense. Sorry about that. Would fix it up but I have to get back to (uni) work. 🙁

  16. Sorry Alex but if we did not have the trade unions-we would have salaries of Romania-here in Slovenia. Our workers can barely make ends meet as it is, never mind loosing the only protection they still have from the greedy managers. I agree that the British system absolutely works better than Slovenian-but the blame lays mainly on employers who are greedy and incompetent and do not see employees as a long term investment. They rarely have a long term vision for the (state owned) company anyway, the trend in Slovenia is to screw the company, sell it for cheap to foreigners and pocket tons of money. Besides, the whole system is corrupt and you hardly have people on decision making places that got there on the account of their work or their abilities.

  17. I think it is very important for students to work during college, not just for the money, but for the experience. Graduates encounter a huge disadvantage to others who have work experience in addition to education. It can be hard for students to find a job, especially during the recession, because employers do have the option of hiring a non-student (who can work more hours), graduate, or professional.

    At the time I did not feel lucky to have to work since I was 16, but I realize now that I have learned a lot while working during high school and college. I am currently finishing up my BSBA and working for Vector Marketing. I know my experience and hard work will benefit me after I graduate.

  18. In general, i can say that students in Slovenia are in pretty stuck situation, and things are getting worse day by day.

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