Tripartite programme to secure employment and sustainable economic growth

The tripartite programme for securing employment and economic growth published by the Finnish government and labour market organisations in October 2010 aims to improve working life and extends the scope of discussions on the statutory retirement age to also cover length of working life. Social partners described the results of the tripartite working groups as historical and highlighted the functioning of Finnish tripartism as exceptional in the European context.

A joint programme for securing employment and economic growth compiled by social partners in Finland was released in mid October. Labour market organisations are particularly pleased that the scope of discussion has been extended from the statutory minimum age of retirement towards a wide-ranging discussion on the length of working life.

Retirement age and career length have recently been a hot issue on the social partners’ agenda in Finland. Last year, the Finnish government appointed two tripartite working groups to produce proposals for reform of the pension system. The working group tasked with proposing overall improvements in the working life reached an agreement. The other working group, involved in raising the retirement age, failed to generate clear results (FI1002019I).

Trade unions welcomed wider perspective on improving working life

The report (in Finnish, 1Mb PDF) issued by the social partners introduces about 90 individual measures aimed at economic growth, job creation and a sustainable public sector. The report covers the following topics:

  • productivity and economic growth;
  • productivity of the public sector;
  • increasing the employment rate and decreasing unemployment;
  • purchasing power and competitiveness;
  • careers;
  • management of the unemployment insurance fund.

The report has elicited generally positive reactions among social partners. The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and the Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK) are pleased that the scope of discussion has been extended from retirement age towards a more wide-ranging discussion on the length of working life. The Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) believes that the programme will take the discussion on career length to a wider context.

The President of SAK, Lauri Lyly, said he was impressed that a discussion that had started as a narrow debate on raising the retirement age had now turned towards wide-ranging issues for the improvement of economy and working life. He was particularly positive about the fact that employment took the centre stage in the discussion on career length. According to SAK, working life can be lengthened only if there are sufficient employment opportunities. SAK considers it particularly important to discuss the means of improving the working life, emphasising that the objective of longer careers can only be achieved by means of improvements to working life and well-being at work.

STTK was satisfied that the social partners have managed to turn a dispute on raising the retirement age into a constructive discussion on well-being at work and consequently lengthening of career. ‘Well-being at work is the key to longer working life, as opposed to the simple raising of the statutory minimum retirement age’, the President of STTK, Mikko Mäenpää, said.

The President of the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals (AKAVA), Matti Viljanen, expects the joint report of the social partners to be an essential part of the next government platform regardless of which parties form the government. He stated that all social partners are committed to the programme and have reached a unanimous position on how to improve employment, working life and the economy overall. ‘We must stir ourselves without any delay. For instance, the unemployment rate of highly educated persons is at a record level.’ According to Mr Viljanen, the key to an improved employment situation is adequate training. He also warned that: ‘a more exact guidance system is needed so that people can get better education in branches where they can find a job.’

Testimony to the functioning of tripartism

According to EK, the joint programme is based on the common understanding among the social partners of the need to continue preparations for raising the average retirement age by three years from the current 59 to 62 by 2025. The working group established within the joint programme was given the task of tracing out the options to lengthen careers. ‘According to EK, the fair approach would be to divide the years of increased life span equally between work and retirement’, said Mikkö Pulkkinen, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of EK.

Government coalition parties also praised the report. Both the focal ministers of the conservative National Coalition and Centre parties said it provided a substantial basis for action for the next government (to be elected in spring 2011).

Ministers and representatives of the labour market federations described the results of the tripartite working group as historically important and highlighted the functioning of Finnish tripartism as exceptional in the European context.

Pertti Jokivuori, University of Jyväskylä

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