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Finnish employment minister likens workplace sexual harassment to drinking on the job

The ministry is looking at ways to eliminate workplace sexual harassment alongside efforts to make Finnish work life the "best in Europe by 2020".

Oikeus- ja työministeri Jari Lindström.
Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Anti-sexual harassment social media campaigns like #metoo have raised heated discussion about the topic around the world for months. Various campaigns from people in different countries and professions have made it clear that sexual harassment is a big problem — including in Finland.

Those social media campaigns also reached the country's Minister of Employment, Jari Lindström, who said his eyes were opened by the stories shared via #metoo and others last year.

"I knew that sexual harassment and abuse happened in the workplace, but I did not know that the problem was so extensive," he said.

In December, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health urged labour market groups to discuss the issue of workplace sexual harassment.

Lindström said that concrete measures will be put into place to fight the problem, and that December's meeting was just the beginning.

Minister likens workplace sexual harassment to drinking on the job

The ministries and labour groups have now met for a second time and are addressing the issue under the umbrella of a larger employment ministry strategy called Worklife2020 — a project which aims to "make Finnish working life the best in Europe by 2020".

Lindström said that sexual harassment and surrounding issues will be addressed directly in the programme, although the ministry has not yet specified exactly how that would take place.

The first concrete measures and proposals are being discussed this month, he said, adding that initially efforts will be made to change attitudes about the issue.

"In the past, the elephant in the room was the use of alcohol at the workplace, until we understood that it's everyone's responsibility to intervene," he said, comparing the two difficult topics.

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