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Finance minister: More immigration needed to tackle labour shortage

Finance Minister Mika Lintilä notes that about half of state employees are due to retire over the next decade.

Finance Minister Mika Lintilä discussed the 2020 budget with reporters in Espoo on Tuesday. Image: Martti Kainulainen

Shortly before unveiling the broad strokes of next year's budget plan, Finance Minister Mika Lintilä called for increased immigration as the nation faces a growing labour shortage.

After going over each ministry's budget requests, Centre Party minister Lintilä has this week been negotiating on budget plans with civil servants at the Finance Ministry.

Also taking part in the talks is Minister of Local Government and Ownership Steering Sirpa Paatero, representing Prime Minister Antti Rinne's Social Democratic Party. Lintilä served as economic affairs minister in the previous Centre-led government, while Paatero is a former international development minister.

The Finance Ministry's own proposals on next year's spending and revenues are to be made public on Friday. At that point the other ministries will be given preliminary frameworks for their own budgets.

The centre-left government, which took office in June, aims for balanced public finances by 2023 – while also expanding spending by 1.2 billion euros. The government's targets are based on presumptions of employment growth.

Even a baby boom wouldn't be enough

Lintilä sees finding enough workers as one of the largest challenges and says that the need for work-based immigration will grow in the coming years.

"As it is, there's already competition for those with special know-how, but we will need workers in all sectors," he told Yle.

The public sector will be especially hard hit by the labour shortage.

"The biggest challenge will be that over the next decade, half of those working for the state will retire, for instance. The big question is where we'll find workers then," says Lintilä.

Last year there were some 74,000 state employees, as well as many more working for local and regional authorities.

Lintilä says that meeting this challenge will require both an increase in productivity and bringing more workers into Finland. The need for staff to fill vacant positions will be so urgent that even any increase in the birthrate would not suffice to solve the problem.

In late July, Statistics Finland pegged the unemployment rate at 6.5 percent.

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