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Commuting 100-plus km for work part of daily life for thousands in Finland

Some 40,000 residents in Finland regularly travel significant distances in order to get to their jobs.

Autoja ruuhkassa
Image: Timo Kallio / Yle

Commuting to work from another province has become an increasingly popular trend as workers are more willing to go the distance to remain employed. Depending on job flexibility and transport options, this can often mean leaving home before the break of dawn.

Such is the case for Ulvila resident Soili Ketomäki who is used to hitting the road on a daily basis for her 100 kilometer commute from the west coast city to the hub of Tampere in central Finland. Ketomäki says she has been commuting for a year-and-a-half, and yet remains happy with the choice.

”At first I had an apartment in Tampere, but spending weekdays there and weekends at home just felt more draining than commuting on a daily basis,” said Ketomäki.

After a long day of work Ketomäki has a house full of family waiting for her. Moving the household to Tampere was never an option as the husband’s job is rooted as a farming entrepreneur. Commuting to and from her construction services job however, Ketomäki has found advantages to the hour long trips.

”On my way home I get to mull over my work day. I think its nice that the journey last a little longer as I can think through my work and get things in order,” said Ketomäki.

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Soili Ketomäki tankkaamassa autoaan.
Ulvila resident Soili Ketomäki makes a daily commute to Tampere. Image: Jari Pelkonen / Yle

Even though commutes provide an opportunity to use time productively, Ketomäki also admits that work is not the only topic on her mind in the morning drives.

”When I leave in the mornings I put on an audio book and listen to detective stories. I’m usually solving murders on my way to work.”

Ketomäki aknowledges that the commuting can at times be a drain, but most times it is fine.

”If it was a constant headache, I wouldn’t be doing it.”

Pori a hotspot for commuters

According to commuting numbers from Statistics Finland, commuting has continually increased over the past several decades. In the 1980s one-in-five would commute to their workplace outside of their residential municipality, while figures from 2015 indicate a rise to one-in-three. Out of 758,717 commuters in 2015, approximately 42,834 of them commute a distance of more than 100 km.

Commuting is most popular around larger cities and growing hotspots like the northwest city of Pori that pulls in workers from neighbouring municipalities, and from further afar. On the other hand, 20 percent of workers living Pori commute to workplaces out-of-town.

Some 6,000 of Pori's 32,000 working residents Pori commute out of the municipality to work, with 26,000 remaining in the city to work. The growing triangular hub of Tampere, Turku and Helsinki offer employment possibilities, drawing some 725 Pori residents to work in those cities every day. Meanwhile some 516 workers from those three cities travel to Pori for their work every day.

While workers commuting from Pori often are employed in wholesale, industrial, construction and warehouse sector jobs, the city also attracts workers in the fields of social and health care as well as education.

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Irene Roivainen
Irene Roivainen, professor of scoial work in Tampere University’s Pori campus, commutes between Tampere and Pori by train. Image: Marjut Suomi / Yle

A seasoned interrailer enjoys the trip

Irene Roivainen, professor of social work in Tampere University’s Pori campus, commutes the distance a few times a week. The departure at eight in the morning and return 12 hours later is not a big deal, according to Roivainen.

Roivainen began commuting in early Autumn last year and says the decision was easy.

”My life situation makes it easy to leave. If I had kids in daycare or primary school to take care of, the situation would be entirely different.”

The journey to Pori and back seemed a good option to Roivainen as the trip allows time to catch up on work in the morning and free time on the commute back home. Roivainen emphasises that as long as work goes well, then the commutes are not too bad.

”The main point is that you have a good work community and an enjoyable job,” said Roivainen.

However one point that bothers Roivainen is the lack of trains between Tampere and Pori, since the last train to Tampere leaves at six in the evening.

Independent of time and place restrictions

The decision to commute is rarely a forced one says Timo Aro, doctor of social sciences and development manager of the city of Pori.

Aro says the typical commuter is a family man aged between 35 and 44 who works in a government job. His earnings are likely 20 percent higher than the average in his own municipality. Meanwhile those least likely to commute to work are 55 year old single women.

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Timo Aro
Timo Aro, development manager of the city of Pori. Image: Jari Pelkonen / Yle

Technology has enabled workers to no longer be tied down to a specific time or place. Despite this, working remotely has not lessened commuting or migration as both are still on the rise, Aro says.

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