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Report pushes ‘location independence’ for state employees

A new report suggests Finland’s regional development policies could shift away from relocation of major agencies towards allowing workers to choose their city.

Anu Vehviläinen
Anu Vehviläinen Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

A new report suggests that Finland’s regional development policies could shift away from relocation of major agencies towards allowing employees the right to choose where they work.

Workers employed by the state should be able to choose the town they work in, according to a new report on regional development policy that aims to map out how decision-makers can support the regions in the coming decade.

The ‘Regionalisation policy and principles in the 2020s’ report was presented to local government minister Anu Vehviläinen on Monday.

“Our investigation has shown that the presence of the state in the regions is needed in future, but we have shifted our focus from traditional regionalisation—the relocation of state agencies—towards the dispersal of organisations and utilising ‘location independence’, said Timo Reina, deputy Managing Director of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

Reina wrote the report alongside State Secretary Anna-Kaisa Ikonen of the National Coalition Party. Finland has a long history of supporting the regions through transfers of staff and agencies to provincial locations, for instance in the attempted move of the pharmaceutical regulator Fimea to Kuopio in stages between 2009 and 2014.

In that case Fimea could not persuade enough experts to move to Savo, and the Kuopio site remains understaffed although nominally the agency’s headquarters.

The report says that digitalisation opens the door to new possibilities in the location of personnel and operations of the state. ‘Location independence’, that is the idea of not being tied to a certain location for work, would demand different management from state employees than their current key requirement to be in one physical place.

The report suggests that making location independent working possible is a central factor in competing for talent.

Traditional transfers of large agencies to the regions could continue to be a factor in Finnish policy, when new units are founded or significant enlargements are planned.

“Those should usually be situated outside the capital city region,” said Reina.

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