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Union: Activation model hitting Finland's senior unemployed hardest

Union data showed that just 13 percent of long-term unemployed or jobless persons close to retirement age were able to avoid having their benefits cut.

Satu on ollut työtön kuusi ja puoli vuotta.
File photo. Image: Terhi Varjonen/Yle

The first iteration of government’s so-called activation model for getting unemployed jobseekers into the labour market appears to disproportionately target older people outside of the workforce, according to Finland’s largest blue collar worker federation SAK.

Initial data from the umbrella union’s unemployment fund suggests that of the long-term unemployed or jobless persons close to retirement age, just 13 percent were able to meet the government’s conditions for avoiding benefits cuts.

The initial version of the government’s controversial activation model requires unemployed jobseekers to either engage in paid work, participate in training or employment-promotion schemes or invoice a minimum of 241 for entrepreneurial work in a three-month period on pain of having their benefits cut by 4.65 percent.

Benefits agency Kela releases similar findings

SAK’s findings correspond with data previously released by Finland’s benefits administrator Kela, which also showed that the policy had dealt ageing unemployed persons a bigger blow than other groups. In May Kela reduced benefit payments to 86,000 persons, some 37 percent of whom were 50 years old. Altogether 27 percent of unemployment benefits paid out by Kela were to persons over the age of 50.

SAK’s preliminary data also indicated that the axe also affected different sectors with varying degrees of severity. It showed that it was easier for the unemployed in the services industry to meet the requirements to maintain their benefits because there were many opportunities for part-time work.

However the situation was completely different in the industrial sector, as well as transport and the public and welfare sectors, where opportunities for gig work are not as common.

The activation model took effect from 1 January, and employment officials evaluate the ability of unemployed jobseekers to meet its conditions at 65-day intervals.

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