Open vacancies up by 25% in Finland as firms grapple with labour crunch

An increasing number of job vacancies remain open for months before a suitable candidate can be found.

Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

The Economic Affairs Ministry listed some 46,000 open positions in Finland at the end of June, up by more than 25 percent compared to the same time last year.

At the same time, the number of job vacancies that remained open for more than a month grew by 45 percent on 2017 to reach 16,000 this year. Job postings that were unfilled after more than two months amounted to 8,700, representing a 60-percent increase in last year.

“This suggests that recruitment is still challenging. It is difficult to find suitable labour for all companies, posts and across all industries – at least quickly and easily,” said head researcher Heikki Räisänen of the Economic Affairs Ministry.

The ability to find suitable employees varies from one municipality to another, sometimes wildly. For example, the Northern Savo Centre for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment (Ely-keskus) reported that vacancies in the area were open for periods ranging from one to as many as 404 days.

Ely-keskus chief inspector Raili Nissinen stressed that it is highly unusual for a position to remain empty for more than a year. However she noted that it is important to highlight extremes since they affect the average period that jobs remain unfilled.

Cleaners and sales reps hard to find

The centre’s data do not reveal which job posting failed to attract a suitable applicant for 404 days, however. However the ministry’s job search website revealed a number of jobs in the Savo region that had been posted more than one year ago.

For example the town of Siilinjärvi had advertised for a hair and beauty care professional – a posting that remained open for 570 days. A chimney repair company had an advert out for a salesperson for 492 days. In some instances, firms had already employed workers, but wanted to hire more.

Nissinen pointed out that it is more difficult to hire in some fields than in others.

“I suspect that in small towns vacancies remain open longer for positions in the care sector, such as psychologists or farm relief workers."

Pasi Lievonen, municipal director of Vesanto, central Finland, said that his town has a shortage of agriculture and forestry professionals and is constantly on the lookout for people to do forestry management work.

Lievonen said that firms have also been searching for food industry workers to perform duties such as packing berries and Nissinen added that sales representatives, cleaners and other specialists were always in short supply.

Bigger problems in smaller towns

In general, smaller municipalities face greater challenges filling open positions. According to Räisänen, larger municipalities fare better when it comes to nabbing qualified employees. Smaller towns and cities do not have as diverse a workforce as larger one and therefore labour market demand and supply are not always evenly matched.

“Finding specially-trained staff is difficult in small municipalities. For example in the health care sector the labour market situation had been relatively good for some time so employees can easily choose where to work,” Räisänen noted.

Nissinen suggested that employers should probably look inward when job vacancies don’t find traction among applicants.

“It would be worthwhile to consider whether there is something in the job that may be hampering hiring. Is there something in the pay level of the duties that should be adjusted to attract applicants?”

An employer survey by the ministry revealed that the biggest recruitment roadblock had to do with a lack of training and work experience relative to the job advertised as well as a mismatch between jobseekers’ personal attributes and employer expectations.

“A job involves elements such as pay, location, and working hours and traditionally their role has not been that big. Of course there are isolated cases where they also play a part,” research director Räisänen observed.

12.32: Corrected spelling of Vesanto and Nissinen