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Finnish government seeks help to find work for more people

| Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén

The Finnish government has asked citizens and organisation for their help to reduce unemployment figures. In particular, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and his government ministers want ideas for how to help people who have a weak position in the labour market.

This is an attempt to gather new ideas from civic organisations, companies, trade unions, schools, municipalities, researchers and others with practical experiences of how to help unemployed people. A first look at the answers shows the government is getting the help it has been asking for.

The Minister of Local Government and Public Reforms, Anu Vehviläinen, and the Minister of Labour, Jari Lindström, jointly came up with the idea to carry out a small experiment: what happens if the government asks people who have their own experiences to come up with suggestions for reform? The government has embraced a culture of experimentation in order to find new ways of reaching political decisions. 

Hundreds of answers

Former member of parliament Maria Kaisa Aula was asked to gather the proposals, which she did by using an online poll. She collects the best ideas for the government to consider, before it can develop them into political measures.

Aula also maps different people’s opinions of measures which would make it easier for employers to hire unemployed people, or which could better help the unemployed finding work or starting their own business.

“We received more than 600 suggestions and I have also received many initiatives via email. Some answers describe problems and people’s own experiences of things that do not work,” Aula told the NLJ.

Last autumn, Minister of Labour Jari Lindström told the NLJ he had been told by many in the field that the way unemployed people were met by the authorities was not coordinated, that people were sent from place to place in a system which was not efficient. Lindström’s criticism of this bureaucracy finds support in the answers which have come in.

Maria Kaisa Aula says there are complaints about sector divisions, about specialists who don’t talk to one another and information which is not being shared. This does not concern only labour services, but also rehabilitation, social services, education and unemployment benefit systems. Earlier Aula was Finland’s ombudsman for children, and she sees parallels with child and family protection where clients also have not been met in a coordinated way.

“The experts fail to cooperate, clients aren't given preventative help and support arrives too late.”

Focusing on the weak

The survey’s main focus is on people who have a weak position in the labour market; young people, immigrants, people with reduced work capacity, the long term unemployed and older people. Because the Sipilä’s government has had to make cuts to the funding of employment measures, there is an increased need to find new ways of helping these groups of people into the labour market. When it comes to unemployed people with higher education and academics, the government hopes to receive suggestions of how they can create their own jobs.

The intention is to develop various types of employment measures on a local, regional or national level. The NLJ will return to this issue to examine how the suggestions are being turned into political and administrative action.

Aiming to increase employment rates

The inquiry supports the government’s programme which deals with reforms aimed at increasing the employment rate and improving the management of the labour force. The hope is that the country’s competitiveness can be improved through creating more jobs and entrepreneurship, a more versatile economic structure and a strong public economy.

The government wants to renew unemployment protection, eliminate unemployment traps, develop a model for active social protection, get more people with reduced work capacity into work and to further develop the youth guarantee.

The government’s stated aim is to increase the employment rate to 72 percent – up from 66.8 in January 2016, and to increase the number of people in work with 110.000 people during this government. Since the government came to power in 2015, there has been a downward trend.

 

Facts:

According to employment figures from the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy, there were a total of 342.100 unemployed jobseekers in November 2015. The high unemployment rate, i.e. unemployed jobseekers plus people involved in activation programmes, totals 464.300 people. There were 42.900 unemployed under-25s and 90.300 unemployed over 55. The number of long term unemployed who had been out of work for more than one year at a time was 114.400.

Source: The Ministry of Employment and the Economy

 

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