(28.06.1998 - Juhani Artto) A clear majority of members of unions affiliated to the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions - SAK - are satisfied with their working hours. This is one of the main conclusions of a study conducted in Spring 1998. The study forms part of a "Gender and Flexibility" project in which SAK is involved together with the British TUC and Dutch FNV organisations.

The investigation shows that regular Monday to Friday day work is still the norm. 78 per cent of the respondents are in regular full-time employment and 6 per cent are in regular part-time work. The proportion of those in temporary jobs was 14 per cent, of whom just over 70 per cent were working full-time and the rest part-time. Other types of employment, including those who are called to work when needed, made up 2 per cent of the sample.

Three years ago the proportion of atypical jobs was 14 per cent. Now it is 22 per cent. There is a remarkable gender split. 31 per cent of working women are in atypical employment, while the figure is only 14 per cent for men. Moreover the proportion of atypical jobs for women is rising while for men it is falling.

Three out of four respondents refer to the nature of the work as the reason for their abnormal working hours. Other reasons given were the desire for additional income (16 per cent), leisure time by day (14 per cent), a higher hourly pay rate (12 per cent), having no other choice of work (7 per cent) and the suitability of such working hours for individual family circumstances.

* 80 per cent of men regard their present working hours as satisfactory in their individual situation, while women take the same view in 74 per cent of cases. Dissatisfaction with working hours is greatest in the private service sector.

* 37 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the length of their working hours. The corresponding proportion is 56 per cent in Britain and 67 per cent in the Netherlands. 31 per cent of SAK affiliated union members would like to work longer hours. In Britain and The Netherlands only 7 per cent express a similar attitude.

* 64 per cent of part-timers would prefer to have longer working hours, while only 28 per cent of full-timers express such a preference.

* 30 per cent of SAK affiliated union members would prefer shorter working hours. The corresponding proportion in the United Kingdom is higher than this, while in The Netherlands it is lower than in Finland.

In Great Britain and The Netherlands there are far fewer women than men seeking shorter working hours, which is explained by the high rate of female employment in part-time jobs. In Finland, the desire for shorter working hours is at practically the same level for both male and female SAK affiliated union members. The rate of part-time employment is much lower in Finland than in The Netherlands and Great Britain.

Why do so many Finns want to work more?

* 55 per cent of those who expressed this wish refer to higher earnings as the reason. Other reasons include liking the work (32 per cent overall and 38 per cent of women), seeking increased security in life (20 per cent) and the desire to acquire benefits enjoyed by full-timers (13 per cent overall and 22 per cent of women).

The reasons given for seeking a cut in working hours are varied: the need for more time to devote to family and hobbies (33 per cent), a desire to reduce the strain of work in the run-up to retiring age (28 per cent), health or stress (24 per cent), child care (12 per cent) and having a good enough income (12 per cent).

Cutting working hours without full compensation has slowly become a less attractive proposition to members of SAK affiliated unions. This attitude was first measured in 1984, when 35 per cent gave positive replies to the question, while only 25 per cent categorically rejected the idea.

In March 1998 only 18 per cent expressed a willingness to accept shorter working hours without full compensation, 43 per cent were strongly opposed to this and a further 25 per cent were rather negative towards the idea.

The research report points out that one possible reason why the idea has become less attractive is the fact that working hours have in fact steadily fallen, partly thanks to collective agreements and partly because of more part-time and temporary jobs.

The questionnaire was sent by post to two thousand members of SAK affiliated trade unions, of whom 51 per cent responded. SAK has 24 affiliated national unions with a total of 1.1 million members including industrial, transport and private service sector workers and most public sector employees.