A client walking toward a pop-up service point at the TE Office in Pasila, Helsinki, on 28 July 2020. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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FINLAND has weathered the economic and social crisis conjured by the coronavirus pandemic better than expected on a number of fronts, including employment.

Statistics Finland on Tuesday revealed that the ranks of the employed increased by 121,000 year-on-year to 2,677,000 in June, which, when adjusted for random and seasonal variation, translates to an employment rate of 72.4 per cent.

The ranks of the unemployed grew by 7,000 to 220,000.

YLE on Tuesday pointed out that news about the healthy increase in employment came on the wings of numerous companies unveiling solid second-quarter figures. The Bank of Finland, meanwhile, has estimated that household savings have increased by roughly nine billion euros as a consequence of the restrictions on social life imposed by the pandemic.

Elina Pylkkänen, a state undersecretary at the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, stated to the public broadcasting company that the rise in employment is a consequence of labour demand rising in circumstances where labour supply is solid.

“Economic growth has gotten off to a good start, and that means labour demand has increased. Labour is also available: we have more than 300,000 unemployed job seekers. It means employment will start growing at a brisk pace. Many supplemented their studies and didn’t apply for work during the coronavirus-interrupted year, but now they are doing so,” she said.

The resumption of economic activity especially in the service sector largely explains the rise in employment, viewed Aki Kangasharju, the chief executive of Etla Economic Research.

“You have to keep in mind now that people who have been temporarily laid off are counted as employed people, meaning we’re not talking about a normal, healthy economy in that respect,” he added to YLE.

Both Kangasharju and Pylkkänen reminded that the coronavirus continues to cast a shadow over the economic and employment situation.

“The greatest threat is the virus mutating in a way that disables us from opening the economy,” said Kangasharju. “That’s a short-term problem. A slightly longer-term problem is that we’ve reached a certain employment rate, but if we aren’t able to take further action we can’t go up from here. And if employment doesn’t improve and the public economy doesn’t recover, we’ll have to start making cuts in the public economy.”

Kangasharju himself is not exactly brimming with confidence that the necessary decisions will be made.

“My expectations are very low,” he retorted. “The train has left the station, the government has spent its money, but it hasn’t made the kind of employment measures that could replenish public coffers. Important decisions have been postponed and, this summer, alarming messages have emanated from the ranks of the government about there still being no need to make decisions.”

He viewed that this autumn may be the last opportunity to make the decisions, as it is likely parties will the start turning their attention to the next parliamentary elections and become increasingly reluctant to make any unpopular decisions.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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