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Ministry: Unemployment in Finland could explode

The employment ministry says the country may see 70,000 more jobless this year.

Ravintola Kaarna.
Many restaurants in Finland have closed following the coronavirus outbreak. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle
Yle News

With Finland in hibernation mode, the coronavirus epidemic has already triggered hundreds of companies to lay off thousands of workers. Furloughs set in motion by the virus have already touched nearly a quarter of a million residents.

Employment offices, known as TE centres, reported a sharp increase of nearly 2,000 jobseekers on 16 March--the day Finland declared a state of emergency over coronavirus.

Finland’s employment situation is changing in a rapid and unprecedented way, according to Heikki Räisänen, a research director at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

“It’s difficult to see when we’ll be out of this fog, but in any event employment will suffer major and rapid losses,” Räisänen explained. “We’re still in an initial phase of shock, next comes adaptation and then, finally, recovery.”

Six-month downturn?

Restrictions imposed by the government are squeezing employment and the economy. Newly-imposed measures are altering consumer behaviour, killing investments and curbing enterprise, for example in the restaurant sector, which employs 70,000 people.

“Economic research institutes have had the mindset that this situation could last for an annual quarter but estimates by health officials suggest these circumstances lasting for up to six months,” said Räisänen. He believes Finland could see hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in the initial crisis phase.

“We could easily see 50,000-70,000 more jobless on a yearly level,” he explained.

But the ministry official also offered a glimmer of hope, saying recovery could potentially be as swift as the preceding downfall.

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