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Survey: Majority opposes so-called activation model

A new law obliging unemployed people to seek out brief work stints is not going down well with Finns. A recent Yle survey shows that proponents of the law know the least about it.

Mies työvoimatoimistossa Helsingissä.
Employment services are struggling to keep up with customers confused about the government model. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

A new survey commissioned by national broadcaster Yle shows that 56 percent of respondents oppose the government's newly instated plans to cut benefits for unemployed people deemed to be insufficiently active in their search for work.

A further 36 percent of respondents said they are for the so-called activation model, while 7 percent could not decide. The survey was conducted by Taloustutkimus and included 1,010 adult Finnish residents.

Taloustutkimus research chief Juho Rahkonen says that many people are for the new law, despite recent public debate on the issue.

"This isn't exactly a blatant condemnation. Especially supporters of the bourgeois parties are downright pleased about the activation measures," Rahkonen says.

From the turn of the year unemployed people who don't find work or enter training schemes will face a 4.65 percent cut in their benefit payments. Some 130,000 people have signed a citizens' initiative demanding the cessation of the activation programme, employee union SAK is arranging a protest in early February and politicians continue to butt heads on the subject.

Right-left division

The turbulent issue represents a clear division in Finnish politics, with right-wing parties (Christian Democrats, National Coalition Party, Centre Party) mostly supporting the so-called activation scheme, called "punishing" by opponents on the left.

"This is a strong indicator that the NCP and Centre Party are essentially sister organisations in Finland," Rahkonen analyses. "The left-right divide is alive and well."

Accordingly, SDP and Left Alliance supporters stand staunchly against the new move, with only 13 percent for the model. A quarter of Greens members support the law.

The Swedish People's Party, Finns Party and Blue Reform group are polling outliers, with about 40 percent of supporters championing the activation model.

Ignorance affects opinions

The government's proposal is that over any three month period unemployed people must perform at least 18 hours of work or enter a work-focused training scheme, or face a 4.65 percent cut in their benefit payments. That equates to a drop of 32.40 euros in the 697 euro basic unemployment payment.

The Yle survey also asked respondents to gauge how well they were acquainted with the specifics of the model. Supporters of the model were found to know the least about it, with the most supporters (49 percent) among those who claimed to know nothing at all about the employment legislation.

In comparison, only 24 percent of respondents claiming to know the proposal very well said they supported it.

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