Helsinki (19.10.2022 - Heikki Jokinen) In a television commercial, a group of kids argue in the playground about whose mother has the most important job. They list a chef, teacher, police officer and a lieutenant in the military.
Then, another small kid pipes up from the sandbox and says that "my mother makes all the jobs of your mothers". The ad concludes with a voice and a text: "salaries in the public sector are paid for by the tax of good companies".
Behind the ad is the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK. It is the major central organisation for private sector employers.
The ad caused heated debate. Päivi Niemi-Laine, President of JHL, the Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors, says in a tweet that the ad is stupid and shows bad taste.
"Downplaying the public sector feels bad and arrogant. Public services make successful export and business possible."
Jarkko Eloranta, President of the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK, told the newspaper Taloussanomat that the ad has elicited a lot of angry complaints from the public who contacted the unions.
"According to the feedback, EK seems to be trying to drive home the idea to the public sector that you have no special value in society. As public sector employees are most often women, it also gives the impression that women's jobs are really not too valuable."
Pekka Seppänen, a columnist at the public broadcaster Yle, says that EK is like a chicken, who has solved the eternal conundrum of who was here first, chicken or egg. The ad shows very limited understanding of the economy, taxation and the division of labour in society, he adds.
Does EK really believe that a medical doctor is doing productive work in the evening in the private health care sector writing prescriptions but dependent on society when operating on patients during the daytime in the public health care sector, Seppänen asks.
In the course of the debate, many people pointed out that private companies are receiving a considerable amount of direct support from public funds, on top of all the public education and infrastructure that makes their business possible.
Also, the company tax collected last year accounted for only about six per cent of all state tax revenue.
The creator of the ad is the same advertising agency that, in 2003, became famous for its campaign to save the Helsinki Zoo baboons. In 2006, it designed the contradictory "Workers' President" - campaign of the right wing presidential candidate Sauli Niinistö, now the sitting President of the Republic.