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Sarkkinen: Employers should be required to hire people with disabilities

Finland should follow the example of a German law penalising employers that fail to meet disability quotas, according to Finland's Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Hanna Sarkkinen.

Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen (Left) argued in an interview that Finland should initiate a quota to compel companies to hire employees with disabilities. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

In an interview with Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun), Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen (Left) said Finland should impose a quota on employers to require them to hire workers with disabilities.

Sarkkinen argued that a quota would address the low employment rate among people with disabilities, which leads to economic problems, poverty and exclusion.

"Only 15 to 20 percent of people with disabilities work, although many more have the ability, education, and desire. There is a major anomaly in not realising this group's right to work in Finland," Sarkkinen told HS.

According to Sarkkinen, it would be beneficial to take a leaf out of Germany's disability employment legislation. Under the legislation, employers who fail to meet the disability quota must pay a monthly fine.

The proposal, however, needs to be studied and cannot be implemented during this parliamentary term, Sarkkinen noted. The minister said that the details of the model — such as the threshold for application, the quota and the level of fines — should be negotiated with social partners.

Sarkkinen said she anticipates her proposal will be met with objections, as employers' lobby the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) has consistently opposed new obligations and fines that burden businesses.

Many stones left unturned

During the current parliamentary term, the government established a state-owned special assignment company, "Työkanava (siirryt toiseen palveluun)", to employ people with partial disabilities and decided to increase their wage subsidies. However, Sarkkinen is not convinced that the measures taken so far are sufficient.

A Slovenian minister explained the quota model implemented in their country during an EU meeting, Sarkkinen said, which is where she got the idea.

"I didn't know that this type of quota existed in some European countries. It opened my eyes to the fact that a number of countries have taken big steps to make the right to work a reality. In Finland, many stones have been left unturned."

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