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JUHANI ARTTO
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Trade Union News from Finland
A tripartite task force in search of ways to improve the unfair status of atypical labour force

Helsinki (28.05.2012 - Juhani Artto) What is the status of employees in fixed-time jobs and part-time jobs, of agency labour and of self-employed and how to develop and enhance their status? These are the questions on the table of a tripartite task force that was established by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy last year.

The task force published its first report in mid-May. It identifies some major problems these groups face in the labour market. Generally speaking, they do not have all the rights that employees in full-time and permanent employment relations have and also their economic status tends to be lower than that of their full-time, permanent job colleagues.

But how to bridge this gap that trade unions regard as unfair and unacceptable? Instead of presenting concrete proposals to alleviate the problems, the task force proposes the establishment of several smaller task forces to focus on the many and varied aspects of the whole problem dynamic.

For those who had expected the task force to come up with a set of concrete initiatives the report is a clear disappointment. Sources close to the task force have informed Trade Union News from Finland that the lack of progress in the work of the task force is mainly down to the employers' reluctance to tackle these problems.

Representatives of the three union confederations - STTK, Akava and SAK - repeat, in their comments on the report, their support for changes that incline towards justice and fairness to the atypical labour force.

The report includes a statistical summary, conducted by Statistics Finland, on how the number and provision of various groups in the Finnish labour force (from 15 to 64 years of age) have changed between 2000 and 2010. For many the meagreness or limited extent of the changes may come as a surprise.

The provision of
  • continuous full-time jobs has remained unchanged at 65.4 per cent
  • fixed-time jobs (full-time and part-time combined) has decreased from 14.1 per cent to 13.3 per cent
  • part-time jobs (permanent and fixed-time combined) has increased from 10.2 per cent to 11.7 per cent
  • "other wage or salary work" has remained unchanged at 0.2 per cent

Various kinds of entrepreneurs, self-employed, family members working at family businesses (or family farms) without pay, freelancers etc. made up 13.2 per cent of the labour force in 2000 and 12.6 per cent in 2010. The biggest change was the decrease in the number of entrepreneurs in agriculture (mostly farmers) and forestry.