Researcher: Finland faces mass unemployment

The autumn will be even bleaker than the summer in terms of unemployment, according to employment experts, YLE News reports. Firms are no longer simply putting employees on furlough, but are more eager to terminate their agreements outright. One researcher says that the situation can now be described as mass unemployment.

Springtime economic news seemed to show signs of improvement, as export markets saw an upward turn and employment figures looked hopeful for the first time in years.

But autumn is now to bring with it a new bout of bleakness in the job market.

”Looking at all these recent employer-employee chats and the slow-down in economic growth, I’m sorry to say that we have a very difficult autumn ahead of us,” says CEO Pasi Holm from Pellervo Economic Research PTT. “The number of employed will decrease and unemployment will rise.”

Major Finnish companies like Itella, Fazer, VTT, Sanoma, Valio, DNA and the Radiation and Nuclear Sagety Authority (STUK) have all announced recent layoffs or codetermination talks.

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) calculates that the last two months have seen more job losses than before. For instance, in July 1,000 employees were let go, while at the same time last year only 200 people lost their jobs.

Fewer companies now put their workers on furlough, instead choosing to terminate their agreements entirely. The reason for this, says Pekka Tiainen from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, is the record-breaking economic slump. Many firms simply cannot afford to wait for better days.

Open positions few and far between

At the same time, the number of open jobs in Finland has fallen even lower. Statistics Finland’s figures this week state that some 28,000 positions are currently available, 15 percent less than last year.

For many getting the axe, this means that a new job is unlikely to be waiting behind the corner.

”Firms aren’t advertising new positions as easily as they used to, because they believe the ongoing slump will only continue or get worse,” Holm says. “Some people may retire with no one to take their place.”

Tiainen, who is a Doctor of Social Sciences and long-time job market researcher, considers the current employment picture to be unusually severe. He says a large number of those now unemployed are so-called backstairs jobless, who do not register in official figures.

“We are at about 450,000 out-of-work people right now, which clearly constitutes mass unemployment,” he says. “Over the course of the year the situation will reflect on various groups of people. Last year 650,000 people were unemployed when some were laid off while others were re-employed. Unemployment directly affects the lives of a million Finns, either through personal experience of familial relations.”

Statistics Finland’s official stats say that the country’s unemployment rate for July was 7 percent, 0.4 percent more than a year previously. Unemployed numbered at 193,000. Unemployment also fluctuates periodically – for instance, Statistics Finland notes that there were 296,000 unemployed in May.