Finland: Disappointment with decision to cut financing of occupational health

Employer and worker representatives have expressed concern that Finnish government plans to cut subsidies for the rehabilitation of people back into working life will result in greater expense in sickness absence and disability pensions.

As part of cost-cutting measures planned by the Finnish government, it has been announced that government subsidies for the rehabilitation of working-age people back into the workforce following illness will be cut by €20 million. Included in this is a reduction of €5 million in the budget of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (TTL) and the cancellation of a new nation-wide rehabilitation programme that was to enter into force in 2016. Both employer organisations and trade unions have expressed their dissatisfaction with the decision, saying that more cases of workers taking sickness absence and claiming disability pension have the potential to be much more expensive for society in the long run than rehabilitation.

Katarina Murto, chairperson of the labour union Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK), noted that sickness absence is best reduced through preventive care. She also stated that reducing health-related absenteeism is an important goal since an estimated 4% of all working days are lost annually due to sickness. Concern has also been expressed that rehabilitation centres around the country will have to make job cuts if the national Social Insurance Institution (Kela) cancels rehabilitation decisions.

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