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Poll: Close to 50% want to make income-related unemployment benefit available to all

A fresh survey suggests 47 percent of Finns would like to change rules that say only members of voluntary unemployment funds are eligible for the earnings-related unemployment allowance.

Mies aukaisee Kelan ovea.
Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

The media syndicate Uutisuomalainen starts off the weekend with a report on the results of a poll that suggest that 47 percent of Finns would like to open up the earnings-related unemployment allowance to everyone. In other words, they are in support of doing away with the current requirement of membership in a trade union or unemployment fund in order to be eligible.

Roughly one-third (30 percent) of respondents to the poll opposed the idea and around one-fifth (22%) wouldn't take a stand one way or another.

The poll was inspired by a motion from the Blue Reform party to look into doing away with the unemployment fund membership criteria. In March Blue Reform MP and Minister of Social Affairs and Health Pirkko Mattila established a working group to investigate the proposal further.

Supporters of the ruling centre-right parties in Finland support the idea, with for example 63 percent of Centre Party voters and just under half of conservative National Coalition Party voters behind expanding the scope of the assistance.

In contrast, only 37 percent of respondents to the survey who support the Social Democratic Party (SDP) were in favour of the move. Supporters of Finland's two major trade union confederations, SAK and STTK, also tended to be against the idea.

The pollster Tietoykkönen conducted the poll for Uutissuomalainen from March 14 to 18, and over one thousand respondents participated, leading to a potential margin of error of 3.1 in both directions.

System of unemployment benefits in Finland

Finland has three alternative unemployment benefits when people find themselves out of work. The first is an earnings-related unemployment allowance that is open only to employees who are members of a trade union or unemployment fund.

This allowance is usually more generous than the second option, the basic unemployment allowance, as it is based on the salary people received before they became unemployed. The full earnings-related allowance with child increases can be up to but no more than 90 percent of the daily pay on which the allowance is based. The minimum payment cannot be lower than the basic unemployment allowance.

The maximum payment period of the earnings-related unemployment allowance is calculated according to a person's age and the length of employment history. For example, people who have worked for over 3 years can be entitled to the earnings-related unemployment allowance for 400 days.

Unemployed who are not eligible for the earnings-related unemployment allowance begin receiving the basic unemployment benefit instead, if they meet the criteria. This is paid by the state benefits administrator Kela on the basis of the national pension index. This benefit – 32.40 euros per day in 2018 – is also paid for a maximum period of 400 days.

Once the maximum payment period for the first two options has been reached, there is a third form of assistance called the labour market subsidy. This final option is means-tested, and other benefits a person might be receiving from the state are normally deducted. See the Kela website for more detailed information.

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