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More partially disabled people could find jobs, government says

Finland's new employment minister says attitudes towards those with partial capacity to work needs to change.

Heidi Damstedt
Heidi Damstedt who is living with multiple sclerosis (MS) says her employer made flexible arrangements that helped her continue working. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

Prime minister Antti Rinne’s 75-percent employment goal means Finland needs to find more ways of getting people into the workforce—and keep them in jobs for as long as possible.

Finland’s new government has identified groups with unrealised employment potential: the elderly, those with low educational attainment and people with partial capacity to work.

Timo Harakka, Finland’s new employment minister, said residents with partial work ability are a major untapped resource.

“In this group, there’s over 60,000 people hungry for work. Employees and employers just need the right mentoring and support to connect,” he explained.

At the end of April, some 28,000 partially disabled people had registered with TE employment offices in hopes of finding jobs. However many more want to work but aren't on officials' radars.

"Everyone has limitations"

Harakka, who was born to deaf parents, said Finland needs to shift its outlook on people with limited work ability.

“We’re all limited in some way,” he said.

Päivi Mattila-Wiro from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said helping this pool of people makes sense, as a recent programme aimed at helping partially disabled jobseekers led to a 30-percent drop in unemployment in this group.

“The most important factor is changing attitudes and focusing on strengths,” she explained.

Subsiding the hiring of people with some form of impairment is one concrete way of getting the ball rolling, according to Harakka.

“We’ve earmarked funds to make it easier for employers to hire people who have some limitations," he said. "It’s also important that employers have a much simpler time applying for these subsidies.”

To that end, the new left-leaning government has said it wants to encourage municipalities to tender services from organisations with social employment schemes, including those hiring people on partial disability pensions.

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