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Ex-MPs' pension parachutes under threat as petition hits goal

The Finnish citizens' initiative to dramatically change how much former MPs receive in so-called 'adjustment pensions' became deluged with new signatures last week.

Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

A citizens' initiative which aims to eliminate the right of former MPs to so-called adjustment pensions has already reached the 50,000 signatures needed for the issue to be taken up in parliament. At the time of posting of this article, the initiative had just received more than 50,000 signatures (page in Finnish).

At present many former MPs go on to work at well-paying jobs after their years of civil servitude are complete. Some MPs receive parliamentarian pensions despite earning big salaries at other jobs.

Last October Kauppalehti reported that many former MPs were receiving adjustment pensions while holding posts at successful firms. The average adjustment pension which former lawmakers receive is about 3,023 euros per month, according to the paper.

That would all change if the initiative to eliminate adjustment pensions is passed by lawmakers. The initiative also proposes that MPs must fulfil certain conditions in order to be eligible for their old-age pensions on retirement.

Boost in popularity

The initiative appears to have received an increase in popularity in reaction to a new law regarding unemployment benefits. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä's coalition government is continuing to take measures to "activate" Finland's unemployed.

At the beginning of the year legislation went into effect that effectively penalises job seekers for not being active enough in finding jobs.

In order to keep their full unemployment benefits coming, jobseekers in Finland must now prove to unemployment office officials that they've worked or participated in some sort of employment-boosting activity for at least 18 hours every three months.

If the jobseeker does not comply with the new guidelines, his or her unemployment benefit is reduced by 4.65 percent for a period of 65 days.

A separate citizens' initiative proposing to eliminate the activate-the-unemployed legislation managed to reach 50,000 signatures late last year before the law went into effect.

The citizens' initiative to dramatically change how much former MPs are permitted to receive in pensions was started on August 11, 2017.

Different rules for MP pensions in 2011

All former MPs who were elected before 2011 — and have served for at least seven years — receive adjustment pensions if they are not employed in the labour market, according to the parliament's web page.

Another pension scheme affects MPs elected in 2011 or afterwards. Depending on the duration of their service, they have a right to draw an adjustment pension for up to three years.

The size of their parliamentary pensions is determined by how much they earn elsewhere.

Joel Rouvinen — the person behind the citizens' initiative — says that since MPs appear to want to activate the unemployed, they could activate themselves, too.

According to him, former MPs should get a new job instead of receiving a pension.

The main point, Rouvinen says, is that unemployed MPs — like others out of work — should be active.

He said the main motivation behind the initiative is to motivate MPs to get jobs after their governmental service, and to save the state money.

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