A recent survey conducted by YTK Unemployment Fund reveals a significant perception among Finns that age is a major hurdle in securing employment, especially for those over 45. The study, which involved nearly 23,000 participants from various industries across Finland, highlighted that a majority of respondents aged 55 to 64 view their age as the primary obstacle to finding a job.

Despite last year’s decrease in the cost of electricity, which strained many household budgets, unpaid utility bills continue to lead to credit defaults among Finnish consumers.

According to a new report from Suomen Asiakastieto Oy, from January to March 2024, over 2,100 new payment default entries were recorded, attributable to unpaid electricity bills.

“We have been following the dynamics between electricity prices and household payment difficulties since early 2022. The number of defaults caused by unpaid electricity bills started to significantly rise in the second half of last year. Unfortunately, the recent numbers show that the number of these defaults has stabilized at a high level,” said Ville Kauppi, Communications Manager at Asiakastieto.

Part of this trend stems from the lengthy process from bill due date to court judgment for payment and subsequent default entry, which can take several months to half a year.

"Some of the defaults registered this year pertain to electricity bills that were already overdue last year. On the other hand, households on the brink of over-indebtedness usually prioritize bills related to housing expenses. If funds are insufficient to cover all bills, something else inevitably remains unpaid," Kauppi noted.

This observation is supported by Asiakastieto's finding that nearly all consumers who receive a default notice for an unpaid electricity bill also have other default entries on their credit records.

Earlier in April, Asiakastieto also reported that the overall number of individuals with payment defaults has begun to rise again, indicating a broader trend of financial distress among Finnish consumers, exacerbated by the challenges in managing utility expenses amid fluctuating economic conditions.

The survey results, derived from YTK Unemployment Fund's Member Pulse survey, indicated that unemployment and part-time workers particularly feel that age is the biggest barrier to full employment, with 31% citing it as a deterrent.

"Age is seen as a barrier to employment increasingly after the age of 45. Meanwhile, those under 35 rarely feel that their age hampers their job prospects. Education level does not seem to influence this perception as both highly educated individuals and those with secondary education experience age as an equally significant barrier," explained Auli Hänninen, CEO of YTK Unemployment Fund.

The results also show that education is the second most common barrier cited, with 24% of unemployed and part-time workers feeling their qualifications do not meet employer requirements. This is particularly the case for those with only primary or secondary education.

"Job opportunities seem scarce. Open responses from many unemployed respondents indicate that there are so many applicants that even getting an interview is challenging," added one of the survey respondents.

Additionally, the stigma of unemployment itself was seen as a barrier. "I feel I am on a different level compared to those employed, even though my skills may be on par with other applicants," shared another respondent.

This comprehensive survey underscores the challenges older workers face in the Finnish job market, highlighting the need for societal and employer attitude shifts regarding age and employment.