Antti Kurvinen (left) and Juha Sipilä (right) of the Centre Party attended a meeting of the party’s ministerial group and working committees in Iisalmi on Monday, 19 August 2019. (Akseli Muraja – Lehtikuva)

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THE CENTRE and the Swedish People’s Party have voiced their reservations about the idea of reducing working time considerably in Finland.

Sanna Marin (SDP), the Minister of Transport and Communications, stated in Turku on Saturday that the Social Democratic Party should incorporate a four-day, 24-hour work week into its political agenda for the near future.

“Why couldn’t it be the next step? Is eight hours really the ultimate truth?” she asked during the 120th anniversary celebrations of the Social Democrats.

The Left Alliance, another member of the ruling five-party coalition, has previously proposed that a shorter working week be trialled in Finland.

The Finnish government made no mention of such a trial in its government programme but promised to examine the possibilities for increasing the flexibility of working time to prolong careers and improve work-life balance.

“The aim, in particular, is to improve part-time working opportunities for parents of small children and for those who are caring for elderly relatives,” the programme reads.

Antti Kurvinen, the chairperson of the Centre Parliamentary Group, expressed his doubts about the idea of a shorter work week to Uusi Suomi on Monday. “Finland should rather promote employment and entrepreneurship,” he retorted.

Kurvinen argued that longer workdays and overtime incentives are needed especially because labour productivity is no longer increasing at the rate of previous years in Finland.

The Centre, he underscored, believes the country cannot move forward by reducing the amount of work, as the costs arising from the free education, health care and social security systems require significant labour inputs from Finns.

“It does feel difficult to fund our well-being while reducing working time. Our problem is rather that there’s too much unemployment and working doesn’t pay,” said Kurvinen.

He, however, stopped short of rejecting the proposal completely, admitting that it could be worth re-considering in the distant future if robotisation has brought about significant improvements in labour productivity.

“You can always envision the future, and no one knows yet what it’ll be like. But [this proposal] would require the breakthrough of robots and artificial intelligence. I don’t think it’s a realistic idea in the short or medium term,” he concluded.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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