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Finnish gov't plan for jobless: Apply for work weekly - or lose benefits

If the law is approved, it is expected to go into effect by the beginning of 2020.

Kuvituskuva irtisanotusta miehestä.
File photo. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

In the midst of a public outcry about the Finnish government's plans to activate the unemployed using sticks rather than carrots — even further demands of the jobless are still in the works.

Finnish government has proposed to create legislation that would require unemployed individuals to apply for at least one job every week in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

The proposed changes would not affect those unemployed who participate in career training programmes or attend approved educational courses.

But individuals not in such situations would need to demonstrate that they have applied for at least one job once a week or risk losing their unemployment benefits for a period of 60 days.

Ralf Sund, chief economist at the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), says that the proposed measures have the potential to leave the unemployed "crushed."

"Compared to Sweden the penalty period in Finland would be five times longer. If (a person) slips up they'll take away their benefits for two months," Sund says.

He also voiced surprise about the timing of the new proposal, just weeks after the first implementation of its "active model" went into force.

In a little less than a week, a citizens' initiative against the active model garnered the 50,000 signatures needed for parliament to revisit the issue.

Sticks vs. carrots

The active model, which places significant demands on jobseekers, was not well received, with many people saying that the measures go too far.

Sociology professor at Tampere University Harri Melin says he thinks the government is taking the wrong approach in getting people back to work.

"They've made a wrong choice to use a stick in a situation where carrots would be giving better results," Melin says.

However, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's government has not offered many carrots to the unemployed.

The most recent move considered positive for out-of-work people was implementation of the so-called Lex Lindström legislation last summer, which gave some long-term unemployed people the right to draw a pension earlier than they would have been able to do before.

Before the active model went into effect at the beginning of this year, government has made budget cuts to unemployment services in general and last year cut income-related unemployment support by 100 days.

The government also put a freeze on index-driven unemployment benefit increases.

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