Trade Union News from Finland archive from 15 August 1997 to 28 May 2013 at Juhani Artto's archive

Helsinki (01.10.2001 - Juhani Artto) Finland’s new Employment Contracts Act (no. 55 of 2001) that took effect at the beginning of June reinforces the generally binding character of collective agreements in Finland. The trade union movement achieved this advance by intensive lobbying of conservative policymakers who had not appreciated the benefits of the generally binding system for society at large.

Another objective likely to be gained by the trade union movement will be approval of its proposal for transition periods governing labour mobility in the enlarged European Union. An active lobbying programme has greatly improved understanding among policymakers of the need for such transition periods. A final decision on the issue has yet to be made in the EU.

Helsinki (21.09.2001 - Juhani Artto) One of the outcomes of a recent SAK survey was that six per cent of SAK rank and file union members have been involved in moonlighting. For an organisation representing more than a million workers this means about 60,000 people. However there was no public outcry in Finland when this figure came to light.

Everybody in Finland knows that working life is not free of shadowy arrangements whereby employer and workers evade taxes, social security contributions and other work-related expenses. Control mechanisms, however, are so strict that only a small part of this grey economy is in any way systematic.

Typically the grey economy arises in individual services where the buyer of the service is happy to enjoy it at a discount price. This kind of tax and social security evasion is closely associated with Finland’s high level of taxation and mandatory social security contributions. This factor even tempts citizens who generally take a dim view of the grey economy to occasionally have recourse to it, either in the role of client or vendor.

Helsinki (14.09.2001 - Juhani Artto) A total of 4,993 cases of occupational illness were reported in Finland in 2000. This was four per cent lower than in the previous year. The annual incidence rate in 2000 was 21 cases per 10,000 employed workers (23 in 1999). Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of the registered cases were involved male sufferers.

The average age of the male victims was 47 years, while among women this was 42 years. This difference is mainly due to the higher male rate of asbestosis and noise-induced hearing loss, both of which are concentrated in older age bands.

The most common occupational illnesses were repetitive strain injuries (1,489 cases), with a ten per cent increase observed from 1999.

Occupational skin diseases totalled 935 cases, down seven per cent from 1999. 60 per cent of the victims in this category were women.

There were 858 cases of noise-induced hearing loss, which was 14 per cent less than in 1999.

The amount of cases of asbestosis decreased by eight per cent to 592.

There were 565 cases of allergic respiratory illness, representing a 25 per cent fall from the 1999 figure.

Work-related carcinomas were reported in 116 cases, which was the same number as in 1999.

As in 1999 clearly the highest incidence rate by industrial sector was in food, drink and tobacco processing. This reached a level approaching 80 cases per 10,000 employed workers. This was followed by mineral mining, agriculture and forestry, production of transport equipment, production of non-metallurgic mineral products, construction work, production of metal and metal products and production of lumber and wood products - all exceeding an incident rate of 40 cases per 10,000 employed workers.

In absolute figures, the three worst sectors for occupational illness were public and other services (911 cases), agriculture and forestry (777) and construction work (644).

Source: Karjalainen, Aalto, Jolanki, Keskinen, Mäkinen, Saalo: Ammattitaudit 2000 [Occupational illnesses 2000], Työterveyslaitos [Finnish Institute of Occupational Health]. For further details contact Dr. Antti Karjalainen ().

The website of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has material in Finnish, Swedish and English.

Read also:
Eight per cent increase - more than 5,000 cases of occupational illness in 1999

Helsinki (02.09.2001 - Juhani Artto) The pay gap between men and women in Finland has persistently remained at an average of 25 to 30 per cent despite a huge number of studies, programmes, initiatives, seminars, task forces, negotiations and an ongoing struggle to reduce and abolish this differential.

How can this failure be explained?

Preliminary results of a new study, made by Dr Juhana Vartiainen, an economist from the Labour Institute for Economic Research, reveals that about half of the gap is due to gender discrimination. The remainder consists of differences in background between men and women in such aspects as education and work experience.

The study is based on large volume of statistical material collected by Statistics Finland. The comparison was made between men and women in full-time jobs.

The worst gender discrimination is in demanding salaried jobs. The gap is smaller in low-pay and the very highest paid occupations.

Dr Vartiainen emphasises that gender discrimination cannot be identified without a subtle and precise job classification effectively illustrating the level of job requirement in various occupations.

The study seeks not only to explain the reasons for the pay gap, but also to develop a method of monitoring the differential statistically.

Source: Pirjo Pajunen, "Puolet palkkaerosta selittyy syrjinnällä" [half of pay differential explained by discrimination], Palkkatyöläinen [the newspaper of the Confederation of Finish Trade Unions – SAK] edition 3-2001.

For further background see:

Summary of the SAK membership survey 2000

Ms Riitta Partinen, SAK Equal Opportunities Secretary: "We all benefit from the gender difference", an interview with Juhani Artto (Ms Partinen retired in April 2001)