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Finland's system of "job alternation" becomes permanent

Finland's system of "job alternation" becomes permanent

| Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén/Photo: Cata Portin

The popular Finnish system of "job alternation" will continue. The system proved so popular and efficient the government decided in September to draft a law to make it permanent.

Minister of Labour Anni Sinnemäki (the Greens) said she was satisfied.

"This allows people a chance to take a breather from work, while giving unemployed people the chance to work."

Job alternation has run as a pilot project in Finland since 1996, taking the lead from similar projects in Sweden and Denmark. So far some 150,000 Finns have taken the opportunity to stay away from work for up to a year while receiving up to 70 percent unemployment benefit - or 80 percent for those with more than 25 years of work experience. In the meantime, unemployed people fill their place, giving them a valuable experience of working life.  

The idea is to grant Finns a career break so that they can work to an older age when they return. However, a study out this summer showed those who use job alternation actually retire earlier than others, but failed to find any clear reason why. What is scientifically proven is that the system does offer unemployed people a better chance at securing a steady job.

The majority of those opting for a break from working life are women between 50 and 59. Jobs in the public sector, particularly the social and health sectors, are overrepresented.

Surveys show most use their break to recharge their batteries and to spend more time with their family. Last year the system cost nearly 103 million Euro, with the Finnish state covering just over 40 million Euro. The remaining cost is covered by the employer's and employee's labour insurance as well as the fees workers pay for their unemployment insurance. The net cost ends up being smaller, as the state saves money by not having to pay out unemployment benefit to those who get a job through the system.

Sweden and Denmark have both ended pilot projects with so-called years off or activation packages, while Finland is doing the opposite.



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