Elise Ramstad: Finnish working conditions in European comparison

1/7/2016
Eurofound published the first findings of its Sixth European Working Conditions Survey (6th EWCS) in Luxembourg at the end of November. The survey measures working conditions in the various EU member states, such as working time, work intensity, physical health risks, involvement opportunities, learning, supervisory work and work organisation.

Working time

A debate is currently underway on whether working time should be extended to increase work productivity in Finland. A recent survey indicates that average weekly working hours in Finland already exceed the EU average. According to Eurofound, the proportion of people working 35–40 hours a week was 63 per cent of all employees in Finland, compared to 49 per cent in the rest of the EU in 2015. The proportion of people working over 40 hours a week was approximately 20 per cent both in Finland and elsewhere in the EU. Meanwhile, the proportion of persons working less than 34 hours a week in Finland was below the European average.

Employees are also flexible in terms of working hours. 50 per cent of employees in Finland and 55 per cent of employees in Sweden reported that they extend their working day to more than 10 hours once or several times per month, compared to the EU average of only 33 per cent.

Thus, extending working time would not necessarily be the most reasonable way of cutting employment costs. Other means of improving work productivity could include e.g. developing working practices, management approaches and tools.

Work intensity

Tight work schedules and high-paced work are relatively common in Finland. A fifth of the respondents (21%) have high-paced work and a fourth (25%) have tight work schedules. The pace of work is typically determined by pupils, patients etc. (68%), the work of colleagues (41%) and production targets (44%), but only rarely by a machine (17%) or a supervisor (13%).

However, three quarters of the respondents reported that they have enough time to do their job. Employees also have good opportunities to influence their work intensity. Finland ranks third among the EU countries with respect to employees' scope to change or alter the pace of their work (84%).

Competence development

Finland is among the best countries in Europe in terms of employee participation in training provided by the employer and on-the-job training. Approximately 54 per cent of Finnish employees had participated in employer-paid training and 55 per cent in on-the-job training during the last 12 months. These figures have remained unchanged compared to those of 2010.

Survey data

The first European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) was performed in 1991. Since 1995, the survey has been performed at five-year intervals. In 2015, the EWCS was performed in 35 countries. The sample from 28 EU countries totalled 35,765 persons. The employees and self-employed persons surveyed were interviewed between February and September 2015.

Tekes monitors working conditions in Finland as part of the Working Life 2020 project coordinated by the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The goal of this project is to make working life in Finland the best in Europe by 2020.

Elise Ramstad, PhD, Tekes

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