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).

Helsinki (02.08.1998 - Rauno Pentti) Finns are currently engaged in a lively debate about the statutory pension insurance system and the financing of future pensions.   Experts have presented a wide range of views and calculations in the course of this debate.  Some experts believe that the present pensions system is adequate to meet future needs, while others are more doubtful and call for changes to the system.

Conflicting visions as to how future pensions will be financed are worrying citizens. More than 80 per cent doubt society's ability to ensure adequate pension security in the years to come. As many as three out of four people believe that politicians don't take the issue seriously enough.*

Carin Lindqvist-Virtanen, senior researcher at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, considers citizens' concern understandable. "Our present national pension system, which provides basic social security for all, was created in the 1930s, and the earnings-related pension system goes back to the 1960s. In the beginning, both schemes were very feasible, as many paid pension premiums but few people were retiring.

Helsinki (10.07.1998 - Tiina Huokuna) The large age classes are a large question mark on the labour market.  We'll all face problems unless the large age classes can be encouraged to stay active in the workforce longer, and thriving on the job.

At the present time, only mini-sized age classes are coming on to the labour market.  Their numbers aren't enough to replace the massive exit of labour from the workforce.

There is good reason to want to keep people in their fifties active members of the labour market. Firstly, they are the country's first whole age class to have such a good level of education. Keeping the large age classes in the workforce also has an impact on the national economy. The pension system simply cannot flexibly accommodate the simultaneous early exit from the workforce of so many people.

(05.07.1998) The economic and social effects of the recession have left a long-lasting mark on Finnish society, despite the fact that prerequisites for economic growth are good.  The greatest cause for concern is the slow decline in long-term unemployment. 

There is increasing danger that Finland will be split into two groups; citizens who are well off and those in a bad way.  Prolonged dependence on social security is even increasing. Recipients of unemployment benefit remain on numerous. The number of people living on income support has not fallen appreciably; in addition, the period covered by income support was extended in 1996.  These were among the findings disclosed in a report, "Trends of Social Security in Finland in 1997-98", compiled by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and released on December 17, 1997.

1. Solidarity is Part of International Industrial Relations

(01.07.1998) In May 1998 the Indonesian authorities released Muchtar Pakpahan, the leader of the country's independent trade union movement. He had been imprisoned for his trade union activities for over 22 months and had also been subject to arbitrary arrest several times before this. News of the release was received in Finland with some satisfaction.

Since 1995 the Trade Union Solidarity Centre of Finland - SASK has provided funding for the educational work of the Serikat Buruh Sejahtera Indonesia - SBSI (Indonesian Prosperous Labour Union), the trade union centre led by Pakpahan.

A desire to help the oppressed is not the only reason for the support provided by the Finns. "Solidarity has become part of international industrial relations" the Director of SASK, Hannu Ohvo, explains. "Moral reasons aside, it is in our own interests to support the Indonesian trade union movement. The same thing applies with equal justification to our support for Malaysian woodworkers and African engineering workers. We are nowadays increasingly interdependent and so a rise in living standards in Indonesia or Africa is in everyone's interests."

(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.

Helsinki (21.06.1998 - Irmeli Palmu) The Estonian trade union movement is generally in favour of Estonian membership of the EU. Estonia is one of the six countries which recently began membership negotiations. The others are Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Cyprus.

Since 1995 Raivo Paavo, Chairman of the central trade union organisation EAKL, has been demanding a referendum on membership.

Estonia's trade union movement is struggling with many problems. Union membership is not popular, and only 10 - 20 per cent of employees have joined a union. Pay differentials are huge and it is more a rule than an exception for part of the wage or salary to be paid under the counter.

(20.06.1998) There are two central trade union organisations in Estonia. EAKL, which organises both workers and salaried employees, has about 80,000 members. Raivo Paavo has served as chairman of EAKL for the past six years. In 1995 he was elected a Member of Parliament.

TALO concentrates its organising efforts on salaried employees. It has some 50,000 members. TALO is chaired by Toivo Roosimaa.

Helsinki (15.06.1998) Hours of work have become gender-oriented in Europe. Women have shorter working hours than men and are more prepared to take advantage of parental and other long-term leaves of absence and job-sharing programmes.

How should we view this? Are part-time work and long leaves of absence a feminine way of enhancing the quality of life or are they a trap which marginalises women and cuts their earnings in the labour market?

The commentators take a strict view. In their opinion we should discontinue all options favouring part-time work and "career breaks" that undermine the work of women. This will leave a general reduction in working hours as a policy in line with the interests of women.

Helsinki (07.06.1998 - Juhani Artto) According to a new study, women's wages and salaries in the engineering industries are only 82 per cent of those of men. This figure comes as no surprise to experts, since roughly similar differences have previously been recorded in several industries in Finland and in other economically developed countries.

The study was conducted by Juhana Vartiainen, a researcher at the Labour Institute for Economic Research ( The statistical material, which Vartiainen describes as being of high quality, covers the years from 1990 to 1995.

But what are the reasons for this pay differential?