The Economic Defence Course (in Finnish: Taloudenpuolustuskurssi), aimed at members of parliament, business leaders and leading academic experts, was held for the fifth time on Thursday 12 September. The event is intended to help business representatives and members of parliament better understand each other's viewpoints. This time the theme was ‘improving employment’.
During the evening, the attainment of a 75% employment rate was considered. According to parliamentarian Lauri Ihalainen, an increase of one percentage point in the employment rate would boost the public economy by around €1 billion, while a two percentage point increase brings an extra €2 billion. Among those participating in the Economic Defence Course, the greatest support was given to the following methods for improving employment: reducing labour taxation for low and medium income earners, increasing pay subsidies for employers of the long-term unemployed, and increasing local application of collective bargaining agreements.
Many of the panellists taking part supported a transition to the ‘Danish Model’ for making unemployment benefits more incentivising. It was noted that Finland's situation with regard to pay subsidies and employment services is weaker than in other Nordic countries.
Teemu Malmi, Professor of Accounting at the School of Business, stated that salary costs have a really large impact on the service sector. He believes that if a basic income would be introduced then the minimum wage could be dropped from employment contracts.
With regards to job seeking, it was noted that it is important to get down to learning new skills early enough if there is no longer demand for previous expertise. This helps to keep people employed. Continuous learning is very important. Most panellists were unreservedly in favour of labour immigration, as we need experts also from outside Finland.
During discussion of the employment policy measures available to members of parliament, Professor of Practice in Finance Antti Suhonen (3rd from the right in the picture) stated that the issue of employing those only capable of part-time work is primarily a question of values, both from the perspective of the employer and of society as a whole.
Course participants take a different view to the nation as a whole on the Competitiveness Pact
Over half of the event participants supported the continuation of the Competitiveness Pact’s working time extensions. According to a survey by Helsingin Sanomat, only around one third of citizens take the same view. The Competitiveness Pact, signed during the previous government term, raised annual work time by 24 hours without any corresponding salary increase. Discussions and negotiations on the matter will continue during the labour market round that is now beginning.
According to Managin Director of Aalto EE Pekka Mattila, digitalisation and robotics have not yet reduced the amount of work, but have rather had the opposite effect. In the future, some work is expected to disappear, but few professions will disappear completely. Fewer managers will be needed in the future, but the need for leadership will increase.
The event was organised jointly by Helsingin Sanomat and Aalto University Executive Education (Aalto EE), which provides coaching and development services for business leaders and managers. Other partners were TEK (Academic Engineers and Architects in Finland), the Elo Mutual Pension Insurance Company, Finnish Business School Graduates and the Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation. The event was for invited guests only and was held at the Old Student House. The Economic Defence Course will be held again next autumn, which will then be for the sixth time.
Text: Terhi Ollikainen