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JUHANI ARTTO
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Trade Union News from Finland

A paperworker is just as expensive in Finland as in Sweden
to the employer


Helsinki (06.06.2012 - Juhani Artto) The Swedish union publication Dagens Arbete surprised its readers on May 3 by claiming that a paperworker cost their employer in Finland over 1.5 times more than in Sweden last year. According to the news an operating employee cost EUR 43 per hour in Finland as opposed to EUR 28 per hour in Sweden on average.

And still according to Dagens Arbete, an operative employee in the pulp and paper industry, wage costs in Finland were not only higher than in Sweden but also higher than in other rich countries. In Germany the average hourly cost to the employer was EUR 36, in Austria EUR 32, in France EUR 31, in the USA EUR 30, in Canada EUR 26 and in Japan EUR 24, Dagens Arbete claimed.

Canada above Finland

The news caused amazement at the union of the Finnish paperworkers Paperiliitto, which has been closely following personnel cost changes over decades. The figures presented by Dagens Arbete seemed to be on the wrong track not only concerning Sweden but also concerning Canada and Japan.

The news published by Dagens Arbete was based on a study made by the Finnish consulting company Indufor in March 2012 on the international competitiveness of the Finnish pulp and paper industry. Despite requests Indufor has declined - appealing to data protection reasons - to reveal its study's concrete sources and its calculation methods.

However, there are several other data materials available that make it possible to follow-up on personnel cost development. Statistics made by Eurostat, the statistical authorities in Sweden and in Finland and the employer organization Finnish Forest Industries have found that the personnel costs especially in Finland and in Sweden are almost on the same level. This contradicts the conclusion made in Indufor's study.

In order to gain a better understanding of the present situation Paperiliitto asked the consulting company Pöyry Oy, one of the leading forest industry consultants in the world, to produce updated data on the personnel cost changes in 16 countries from 2005 to 2011. The summary based on this study indicates, that last year, in the pulp and paper industry, employees cost to the employer were almost identical in Sweden and Finland. In Canada personnel costs were a little higher than in Finland.

Labour costs have risen faster in Sweden than in Finland

From 2005 to 2011 the operating personnel's costs per employee rose faster in Sweden than in Finland. In Sweden the pulp and paper industry labour became more expensive - 4.6 per cent per annum on average, whereas it was 3.2 per cent per annum in Finland.

In Canada, labour costs per employee rose at the same rates as in Finland but in Germany the change was clearly slower (1.2 per cent per annum). In the USA, the figure remained the same in 2011 as it was in 2005. All these changes do not reflect only the pay development of the personnel but also the impact of structural changes on the pay structures.

The following two diagrams crystallize the most important findings of the new study, made by Pöyry Oy and commissioned by Paperiliitto.

The first diagram presents the relative labour costs in 2011 in 16 countries. The figures do not take into account the varying amounts of annual working hours in different countries. However, these differences between the Western industrialized countries are not significant.

Average cost of operating personnel in pulp and paper industry
in 2011 compared to Finland (Finland=100)

Canada 102,3
Finland 100,0
Sweden 95,7
Austria 91,8
Germany 91,2
Japan 90,6
France 77,9
USA 72,0
Portugal 59,5
Chile 43,8
Brazil 39,7
Czech Rep. 31,8
Poland 31,6
Russia 9,0
China 8,0
Indonesia 4,9

From the next diagram one can notice that the rise of labour costs has been fastest in the developing countries. In Europe the annual rise has been fastest in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Average development of operating personnel costs in pulp and paper industry from 2005 to 2011 (per cent / year)

Brazil 13,9
China 8,7
Czech Rep. 8,6
Indonesia 8,1
Chile 6,2
Poland 6,1
Japan 5,7
Russia 4,7
Sweden 4,6
Finland 3,2
Canada 3,2
Austria 2,9
France 2,5
Portugal 2,1
Germany 1,2
USA 0,0