Govt admits exhausting "all easy ways" to boost employment

Government needs to start thinking outside the box to reach its employment targets, says Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. The PM’s comments came as his cabinet emerged from a two-day strategy huddle to review its progress in the run up to mid-term budget talks this spring.

Juha Sipilä
Juha Sipilä Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Members of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s cabinet wrapped up a secretive two-day strategy conference at the PM’s official residence, Kesäranta on Monday.

Last week Sipilä said that the meeting was in preparation for budget talks this spring as his cabinet marks the halfway point of its four-year term.

On Tuesday afternoon Sipilä emerged from the session and issued a call for new measures to increase employment levels. When he assumed office nearly two years ago, Sipilä said that he would raise the employment rate to 72 percent by the end of his four-year term in 2019. The employment rate at the end of December was 68.3 percent.

"We are running out of easy ways and now we have to bring out-of-the-box thinking to find new ways to increase employment," Sipilä said Tuesday afternoon.

Sipilä’s cabinet discussed such measures during the strategy session, which the PM described as positive in spirit. He said that the government is now trying to identify proposals that would be truly effective.

Members of the government had been tipped to discuss possible changes to the corporate tax regime, but Sipilä said that the discussions had not yielded any common ground that would result in major changes.

PM: Public pressure strengthened govt unity

The PM stressed that government will not give up its goal of boosting employment. It is an ambitious undertaking: the last time the employment rate in Finland was 72 percent was in 1990, when it stood at 74.1 percent, just ahead of a punishing economic crisis.

Post-90s, the highest employment rate rose to its highest at 70.6 percent in 2008, again before the global financial crisis once more rocked the Finnish economy.

Sipilä promised to share the big picture of the government’s proposed actions before municipal elections due in April. However he said that no final decisions will be made before mid-term budget talks, after the election.

The prime minister said that the governmetn coalition unanimously shared the view that no new austerity measures would be needed in addition to those already implemented.

"The basket of cuts; that is now done. Now we need structural reforms and more measures to increase employment," he said.

Reporters pressed Sipilä about cracks in the government coalition following Centre Party Transport Minister Anne Berner’s stillborn proposal to overhaul the road transport system. However the PM assured the media that all was well in the government.

"I could say that the public pressure only increased our unity," he commented.

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