Finland: Debate on increasing annual working hours launched

A proposal from the Confederation of Finnish Industries argues for 100 additional annual working hours per employee, to boost productivity and competitiveness. Trade unions have strongly criticised the proposal.

In May 2015, during the talks on forming the new government, the recently elected Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (of the Centre Party) proposed an annual increase in working time of 100 hours per employee. The proposal was part of the ‘social contract’ the government seeks to reach with the social partners in order to raise Finnish productivity by 5% and so boost the country's competitiveness. The idea originally came from the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), the employer umbrella organisation. Subsequent opinion polls have indicated that the idea roughly splits the population in half: some polls point to some 30%–50% being in favour of it; other polls indicate a similar percentage being opposed to the proposal.

in January, the Bank of Finland had calculated that the reform would result in an annual rate of growth of gross domestic product (GDP) until the year 2021 that would exceed the current predictions by more than 1.2 percentage points; this represents an increase of €11 billion compared to today. However, economists on the trade union side have claimed that short-term effects would include rising unemployment as longer hours would allow a smaller number of employees to carry a heavier workload. They also claim that the Finnish export industry's main problem is not one of weak competitiveness but rather the current low level of demand in Europe. Trade unions themselves have been sceptical about the proposal, seeing a reduction in wages as being its main implication. Pro, the biggest trade union for clerical employees in the private sector, has warned that long working hours can reduce hourly productivity. Pro suggests improved leadership, better task management and greater flexibility as alternative means to improve efficiency.

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