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Pandemic weakened working capacity of Finland's under-50s, study finds

Women are not managing their workloads as well as before the pandemic, according to public health institute THL.

 Koulusta kotiin jäänyt lapsi opiskelee yhdessä etätöitä tekevän äidin kanssa kotonaan.
THL’s study revealed that the pandemic has hit women’s ability to work the most. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically affected people's ability to work, according to the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare (THL). A new study by the agency suggests the strain is particularly felt by those under the age of 50 as well as women in particular.

THL research professor Seppo Koskinen said this has been a time when parents have had to keep up with their work duties while helping to school their children at home. At the same time, many have had the added responsibility of caring for their elderly parents.

"Some people under the age of 50 have felt an excess burden," Koskinen explained.

The THL noted that a significant share of Finns under the age of 50 have reported changes in their work and financial situation during the coronavirus epidemic. The agency highlighted that women under 50 are especially concerned about their employment and overall financial situation.

THL's study revealed that the pandemic has hit women's ability to work.

By the end of 2020, 14 percent of women aged between 25 and 49 reporterd being totally or partially incapacitated in terms of being able to work. The corresponding figure in 2017 was nine percent.

"More detailed research is needed before concluding whether this is a short-term, momentary dip or a longer-term phenomenon," Koskinen said.

Of the men belonging to the same age group, 11 percent assessed themselves as totally or partially incapacitated to work by the end of last year. In 2017, this share was eight percent.

Fewer fit to work

People's working capacity, however, began deteriorating before the pandemic. Residents' ability to work had been improving up until the beginning of the 2010s, but it then stagnated before starting to decline in 2020.

"It is difficult to estimate to what extent this development can be attributed to the coronavirus epidemic," Koskinen pondered.

The THL study also revealed that the gap in the working ability between people of different educational and training backgrounds has continued to widen. People holding no qualifications beyond a primary education diploma were more likely than other groups to be less fit to work.

Finland recently extended the compulsory schooling age to 18. But Koskinen said that more effective measures were needed to improve the working capacity of the Finnish population.

Preventative action could see the government providing the means for people to better sustain their general health and personal welfare, according to Koskinen, "especially for those with low incomes and a low level of education."

"The existing work ability of employees must be supported better than at present. Work tasks and working hours must be adapted to the employee's abilities so that they can continue in their work in a meaningful manner," Koskinen said.

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