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Are Finnish holidays too long – or at the wrong time?

The head of the Tampere Chamber of Commerce agrees with Prime Minister-designate Juha Sipilä that people in Finland should work more each year. But he says that just comparing holiday lengths gives a distorted image of the competitiveness of Finnish firms.

Lakatut varpaankynnet, ihminen riippumatossa.
Many Finns take vacation from around Midsummer in late June until early August. Image: Hanna Lumme / Yle

The summer holiday season in Finland is earlier than in many other northern hemisphere countries, generally ending in early August. The head of the Tampere Chamber of Commerce, Peer Haataja, argues that changing the vacation time should be considered as part of the ongoing debate over a ‘social contract’ aimed at improving productivity.

As Haataja sees it, the practice of shutting down the country in late June and July and returning to work and school in August – when much of Europe takes its holidays – creates unnecessary work and costs for Finnish companies, and makes it harder for them to cooperate with international partners.

“We can’t produce services, we have to set up a lot of special arrangements, including replacements, and we halt production at the wrong time,” he said to Yle. “For many firms, moving holidays up by a month would be a good solution.”

Better in the long run?

The issue is hardly new, with a long-running discussion in Finland about the repercussions of such a change. For instance the school system is based around the industrial and business vacation schedule.

Haataja predicts that there would be hiccups and extra costs after such a shift, but that in the long run everyone would win.

“Vacationers would benefit, since May is traditionally quite cold and August is significantly warmer and a better holiday month,” he argues.

Haataja agrees with Prime Minister-designate Juha Sipilä that people in Finland should work more. But he says that just comparing holiday lengths gives a distorted image of the competitiveness of Finnish firms.

According to Haataja, France is the only EU country where people work fewer hours annually than in Finland. Here the basic work week is limited to 40 hours by law, and the average for most contracts is 37.5 hours per week. He noted that these hours are of course also shortened by parental leave and what he describes as a high number of sick days.

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