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Elina Lepomäki on Thursday announced the National Coalition is advocating a shift to universal income security. “This system isn’t fair,” she told Helsingin Sanomat. (Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva)

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THE NATIONAL COALITION has declared its support for extending earnings-related allowance also to earners who are not members of unemployment funds.

The earnings-related allowance is an unemployment benefit that is paid only to unemployed job seekers who are members of an unemployment fund, even though 94.5 per cent of its funding stems from tax revenues and the statutory unemployment security contributions of employees and employers.

The remaining 5.5 per cent is covered by the membership fees of unemployment funds.

“I’ve wondered why so few have drawn attention to the tens of thousands of temporarily laid-off employees who are easily losing a grand a month for not being members of an unemployment fund, even though they are some of the worst hit by the crisis,” commented Kai Mykkänen, the chairperson of the National Coalition Parliamentary Group.

“They should be entitled to the earnings-related [allowance] in light of their contributions.”

The proposal to extend the allowance also to non-members of unemployment funds was tabled originally by Elina Lepomäki (NCP) in 2015. She viewed that it is problematic that all wage earners pay unemployment security contributions, but only around nine in ten of them are entitled to the higher earnings-related allowance.

The proposal included reducing the maximum eligibility period for the earnings-related allowance from 4–500 days to 250 days, a fact that would have kept it cost neutral.

“Tens of thousands of temporarily laid-off people have been left without income security this spring because they didn’t realise they had to join an unemployment fund. That isn’t the way it should be,” she stated to Helsingin Sanomat on Thursday, 9 July.

Finnish trade unions have opposed the proposal because earnings-related unemployment allowance remains an incentive for many to join a union, even though unions and unemployment funds operate strictly independently and union membership is not a precondition for joining an unemployment fund.

The proposal was branded as “an attack against unionisation” in 2015 by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) and Finnish Confederation of Professionals (STTK).

Jarkko Eloranta, the chairperson of SAK, on Friday reminded Helsingin Sanomat that the National Coalition has not commented on what would be the level of the universal income security it is advocating.

“That’s one question. Another thing is that even though we’re talking about general income security, even that would be associated with some kind of work requirement,” he said. “That means there’d always be someone whose contributions would be wasted, so to speak. The current system is easy to approach and anyone can join an unemployment fund.”

He admitted that the proposal would reduce the number of employees left without the earnings-related allowance clearly, but suggested the focus should be on why earners choose not to join an unemployment fund.

“But as I said, there has to be a reason why folks aren’t joining the funds these days. We’d start by mulling over that, rather than revamping the system,” Eloranta told Helsingin Sanomat.

The Federation of Finnish Enterprises is contrastively in favour of shifting to universal income security.

“It’s unbearable that income security is granted only to the members of funds instead of everyone who has paid their unemployment insurance contributions,” viewed Mikael Pentikäinen, the CEO of the Federation of Finnish Enterprises.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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