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Sharp rise in furloughs, especially among younger workers

More women and people under 20 have been temporarily laid off due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Työntekijä desinfioi myymälän ovenripaa kauppakeskuksessa.
Many women work in the service sectors. Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

The number of employees furloughed from their jobs rose rapidly in March as the coronavirus arrived in Finland, says the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. About 50,000 more people were on unpaid leave compared to a year earlier, and the number rose further in April.

The number of people on unpaid leave has likely surpassed that during the peak of the last financial crisis in Finland, which was about 90,000.

With restaurants and cafés closed except for takeaway sales, and most non-grocery shops closed or with limited opening hours, epidemic restrictions have hit the retail and service sectors particularly hard.

"In March there were about 50,000 more furloughs than during March last year, and growth accelerated in April," says Petri Syvänen, a ministerial advisor in employment statistics at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

Worse than 2009

Altogether some 65,000 workers were placed on full-time furlough in March. Syvänen expects the number of furloughed employees to surpass that of the 2008-09 financial crisis. The number then peaked at about 90,000.

Meanwhile the number of people officially registered as unemployed rose by some 60,000 in March. That brought the total number of jobseekers to more than 309,000, based on figures from Employment and Economic Development Offices. There was a year-on-year increase of more than 70,000 people.

Young adults hit hard

In the past, those temporarily laid off were typically over age 50, but now they are more likely to be under 30, and more of them are women.

These changes reflect that the service sectors tend to hire more young adults and women, says Syvänen.

"Restaurants, institutional kitchens, waiters, but also jobs related to sales and travel – these are all areas where the number of temporary layoffs have clearly risen compared to a year ago," he says.

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