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Chamber of commerce survey reveals Finland's "alarming" skilled-labour shortage

Companies are struggling to fill positions due to applicants' lack of relevant work experience or suitable qualifications.

Nearly 70 percent of the 1,300 companies surveyed reported that shortages of skilled labour have limited their growth. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

Three out of four companies are experiencing a shortage or even a severe shortage of skilled labour, according to the results of a survey of member companies conducted by Finland's Chambers of Commerce network.

This is a significant increase on the results of a similar survey last year, which found that about half of companies faced a skills shortage.

Furthermore, nearly 70 percent of the 1,300 companies surveyed this year reported that shortages of skilled labour have limited their growth.

The deteriorating situation is "alarming", according to Central Chamber of Commerce specialist Mikko Valtonen, who called for the government to take action.

"There's a real urgency now," he said, adding that 64 percent of the survey's respondents said that more staff would be needed over the next six months.

Skilled and qualified staff are especially needed in the fields of trade, administration, technology and data processing, as well as telecommunications, the survey's results found, while need for workers in the healthcare and services sectors is already well documented.

Few applicants, lack of suitable qualifications

Many of the companies that responded to the Chamber of Commerce survey said the main cause of labour shortages is simply that there are no applicants for open positions, or the applicants that do apply do not have the required work experience or qualifications.

Just under half of the companies reported that a lack of relevant work experience was a recurring factor in failed applications, while a quarter said qualifications were a constant issue.

Mobility of labour — meaning the ease with which workers can move around within an economy or between different economies — was cited as a challenge by about 12 percent of companies surveyed, while a lack of language skills was reported as a problem by eight percent.

According to Valtonen, education and training can play a significant role in improving the labour shortage problem.

"If we look at the second half of the 2030s, the need for higher education qualifications will clearly increase. I would rather invest in having good quality education and training," he said, further noting that applicants with a vocational or polytechnic degree are especially in demand, with over 60 percent of companies surveyed saying these qualifications were desirable.

Competition for foreign labour intensifying

Some 40 percent of the companies surveyed said they had people from abroad, and roughly the same number of respondents said they plan to recruit foreign specialists in the future.

Valtonen told Yle he hopes that it will be easier for skilled foreign workers and students to enter Finland, as he emphasised that competition for labour must be considered on a global scale.

"Work-based immigration and education should be accelerated. The competition is so fierce that we have to look beyond the EU's borders," Valtonen said.

According to Nordea Chief Analyst Jan von Gerich, Finland's economy is recovering quickly from the coronavirus crisis, but labour supply is causing problems and central banks will soon begin to pull back the emergency measures introduced during the pandemic.