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JUHANI ARTTO
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1997-2013

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Only a fifth of Finns would balance public sector economy by cutting social services and benefits

STTK (25.10.2010 - Juhani Artto) Finns prefer tax rises to cuts in social services and benefits, when asked for their preferences on how to balance the public sector economy. More than a third (38 per cent) would approve tax hikes to reach this goal but only a fifth would accept cuts in social services (21 per cent) and benefits (20 per cent).

These are some of the major findings in a recent survey, commissioned by The Finnish Confederation of Professionals STTK. This came to light in a representative sample drawn from almost 1,100 Finnish citizens, from 15 to 74 years of age.

In order to safeguard the public economy over a third (35 per cent) are prepared to accept increases in public service fees or the outsourcing of public services. Nearly as many Finns again (33 per cent) would be willing to sell off public property. But far fewer people would be willing to lower wages and salaries of public sector employees (11 per cent), and very few (4 per cent) regard cuts in pensions as a relevant or realistic alternative when it comes to balancing the public sector economy.

As to the tax hikes the clearly most popular decision would be to raise capital income tax (58 per cent). It was followed by increases in environmental and energy taxes (32 per cent), company tax (30 per cent) and tax on wealth (29 per cent). The least popular options would be higher VAT (20 per cent) or higher income tax rates (16 per cent).

Participants were also asked to name the five most important goals for the next four or five years. They were given 21 alternatives. Improving employment and reducing unemployment received, by far, the most listings. Three out of four replies (76 per cent) included this goal. The other top goals were balancing the state economy and reducing the debt (43 per cent), keeping prices low (35 per cent), securing the overall economy and services of the municipalities (33 per cent) and developing social and health services.

Promotion of entrepreneurship and environmental protection were listed by 29 per cent of the respondents. It was slightly more than crime prevention (26 per cent) and reduction of social inequality (23 per cent). At the very bottom, with only 1 per cent of the respondents having ticked them, were expansion of minority rights and promotion of immigration.

When asked what things worry the respondent most, unemployment scored highest on the list (58 per cent). It was followed by health care (45 per cent), crime (44 per cent), climate change and environmental problems (42 per cent), problems caused by immigration (39 per cent) and price level and consumers' purchasing power (39 per cent). Only 5 per cent listed military threats and defence among the things they worry about. Less than a fifth worry about education, alcohol issues, company competitiveness and taxation.

Such kind of opinion surveys form part of STTK's strategic planning. They are made biannually. Also, biannually STTK commissions a large survey on salaried employees' position in the labour market and attitudes concerning various issues, central to the trade union movement.