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Minister: Govt to dismantle contentious activation model "as quickly as possible"

Government says the unpopular model will be rolled back once certain "employment-related measures" have been introduced.

Aino-Kaisa Pekonen.
Aino-Kaisa Pekonen has served as leader of the Left Alliance parliamentary group since 2015. Image: Petteri Paalasmaa / AOP

Newly-minted Social Affairs and Health Minister Aino-Kaisa Pekonen has issued assurances that the new government is already taking steps to roll back the highly unpopular activation model introduced by the previous administration to get unemployed people into jobs. The plan was part of the previous government's ambition to reform the labour market and boost the employment rate to 72 percent, a target it achieved at the end of last year.

The scheme required the unemployed to either enrol in a training programme, bill a minimum of 241 euros or perform 18 hours of paid work in each three-month period. Failure to do so resulted in the authorities docking their unemployment benefit by 4.65 percent a month, amounting to a 32.40-euro cut in the 696-euro benefit from the Social Insurance Institution (Kela).

During the first review period after the model was introduced by Juha Sipilä's administration at the beginning of 2018, roughly 94,000 people suffered benefits cuts for failing to meet the criteria.

On Monday, Pekonen took to Twitter to signal that work was underway to strike down the scheme.

"The activation model is being dismantled. Many have asked and I want to answer clearly. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is already preparing to terminate the model and the change will be implemented as quickly as possible, while paying attention to good legislative practice and the need for changes in Kela's systems," the minister tweeted.

Questions over administration's plans

Kela, Finland's principal benefits agency, was responsible for rolling out two of the previous government's flagship labour market reforms, the activation model and a widely-publicised basic income experiment.

The new administration's plans to bin the activation model have raised some questions. According to the government programme, the model will be discontinued when the cabinet has concluded certain "employment-related measures".

Before the election, current government partners, the Left Alliance and Prime Minister Antti Rinne's Social Democratic Party had promised to eliminate the model, which was widely seen as unjust.

A citizens' initiative to dismantle the scheme gathered broad support and was handed to lawmakers soon after the model was introduced.

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