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Easier to get a job, easier to lose it - PM defends gov't plans

The main goal of government talks this week on the 2019 state budget was to work out means to further boost employment. While new policies in Finland will lower the threshold for companies to hire, they will also make many new jobs less secure.

Mies pakkaa tavaroitaan työpaikalla.
Image: Viacheslav Iakobchuk / AOP

One of the primary targets of the three-party, centre-right coalition headed by Centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipilä is to raise the national rate of employment to 72 percent. Right now, it looks likely it will reach or even exceed that level, with a boost from a general economic upswing.

Following talks on Tuesday and Wednesday to set a framework for the 2019 state budget, the cabinet took several decisions that are being applauded by employers, but will make some jobs less secure.

The government's intention is to lower the threshold for companies to hire new employees, so that more people can get jobs. On the other hand, those jobs may not last long.

Under the latest proposals, any company hiring someone under the age of 30 who has been unemployed for at least three months will be able to do so for a fixed period, without needing a reason to limit the period of employment. This means that these young people will be easier to hire, but they will be less likely to get permanent employment.

The government is also now planning a change in legislation that will make it easier for small companies with fewer than 20 personnel to fire employees for "personal" reasons, such as negligence or inappropriate behaviour.

According to Finance Minister Petteri Orpo, there are some 270,000 companies with fewer than 20 employees in the country. Spurring them to hire more people could create a lot of new jobs, however, with fewer employee safeguards in place.

PM - First employee is a risk

Prime Minister Sipilä told Yle Radio on Thursday morning that one of the main barriers to employment by small companies is the worry about how to dismiss an employee if a mistake is made in the hiring process.

"When an entrepreneur hires their first employee, it is the biggest risk for that company at that moment. If we can ease that now, I believe that we can give a positive push to the development of employment," said Sipilä.

The Prime Minister added that new measures affecting under 30 year-olds will also lower the threshold to new hires.

"Youth unemployment is still high, even though unemployment overall has fallen. This is a focused measure to get young people fixed-term jobs that will in any case promote employment and give them hope that there will be work in the future, as well," he explained.

Unions slam plans

Major trade union groupings issued criticism of these measures as soon as they were announced early Wednesday evening. Both the blue-collar Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK and the white-collar Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees STTK slammed these plans as unfair and discriminatory.

"Wage earners did their part in turning the economy toward growth by accepting a tough competitiveness pact. It is unfair that after that workers are burdened with uncertainty by weakening employment safeguards," stated SAK Director of Collective Bargaining Annika Rönni-Sällinen.

The STTK criticized the government's decision, as furthering inequality and discrimination, particularly by undermining the already precarious position of younger age groups in the labour market. It said in a Wednesday press release that this is in conflict with the principle of just treatment across generations.

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