Helsinki (14.08.1998 - Juhani Artto) A few years ago the labour researcher Kimmo Kevätsalo* proposed an hours of work model for industrialised countries which would eliminate unemployment. He recently repeated this proposal after learning of a similar model proposed by Dr. Patrick M. Liedtke, a member of the Club of Rome working group.
The basis of Kevätsalo's model is a 20-hour working week. Employers would be obliged to offer work to all citizens of working age so that nobody would be forced to remain unemployed. "The pay for this weekly 20 hours of work, which would be mandatory for both employers and employees, could be set at the average level of present unemployment compensation (or the minimum income level)", Kevätsalo writes in his column in the Metalworkers Union publication "Ahjo" (6-98).
"Any remaining work would be performed flexibly either by employees or by entrepreneurs of various kinds. A few people would not exceed the 20-hour norm, earning only the minimum wage, while others would perform a weekly 40-60 hours of demanding skilled work earning as much as high income workers under current conditions."
"The constitutional right to work would become a reality and labour market flexibility would significantly increase."
In an interview conducted by Matti Arvaja and published on 29.03.1998 in the South-West Finland daily newspaper Turun Sanomat, Kevätsalo adds further ideas and details to the model, emphasising that a general reduction in working hours is not the objective.
"Implementation of my proposal would most likely lead to longer working hours. Only the working hour norm would be halved."
As his motive for developing the model Kevätsalo, refers to high unemployment and the need of enterprises for a more flexible workforce.
In Kevätsalo's opinion, future hours of work cannot be based on a fixed working week of 37.5 hours. For those working only 20 hours per week, hours of work could be evened out to achieve the norm within a year.
The rate of pay for work beyond the weekly 20 hours would be determined freely by the labour market. This, Kevätsalo believes, would be welcomed by higher salaried employees who nowadays usually enjoy no limitations governing the extra hours which they have to work without overtime compensation.
Kevätsalo has no illusions about probable immediate reactions to his proposal. "I know that the idea is far too radical to lead to any substantial concrete measures for quite a long time", he writes in Ahjo.
*Kimmo Kevätsalo is a researcher at the Finnish Metalworkers Union.