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The long and winding road of the failed activation model comes to an end

The activation model for unemployed people is to be scrapped, the Minister of Social Affairs and Health Aino-Kaisa Pekonen (Left Alliance) said on 3 July.

She estimates that due to the time needed for the necessary legal changes in Parliament it will be the beginning of the next year before the activation model is confined to history.

This so called activation model is the brainchild of the previous right-wing PM Sipilä government. What has resulted in real terms is that an unemployed job-seeker forfeits 4.65 percent of his or her benefit if they are deemed to be less than active in their search for employment.

A large number of unemployed people have been unable to meet the criteria in spite of serious attempts to do so and have instead seen their unemployment benefits dip. The legislation is widely seen as being ineffective in helping people get employment, and unfair and penalising towards the unemployed.

This controversial legislation has led to a number of strikes and was probably one of the reasons behind the PM Sipilä Centre Party collapse at the polls in the April parliamentary elections.

The new PM Rinne Government promised in their government programme to scrap the activation model. However, the Centre Party – which continues to be part of the new government – demanded an additional sentence saying that this will only happen once there are effective measures in place to increase the level of employment.

Looking for a genuinely activating model

Timo Harakka, the Social Democratic Minister of Employment said earlier this week that the activation model can be canned immediately, as it has not proved to have had any positive effect on employment.

And the Government has simultaneously taken other measures to improve employment, as outlined in the government programme, Minister Harakka adds. These include development of employment services with the goal of building a “genuinely activating model”, as he puts it.

The state VATT Institute for Economic Research published in May a preliminary report on the activation model. It could not find any clear positive effect emanating from the activation model but promises more comprehensive results in October.

In the same report 62,4 percent of employment office chiefs and specialists said the model should be ditched as it mostly serves to demoralise and frustrate job-seekers. The services needed are not always available and the system is unjust, especially for those who already are in the most vulnerable position, they said.

Minister Pekonen says that the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has already begun to prepare new legislation to remove the activation model. At the same time new measures to improve employment are under preparation. These will be encouraging, Pekonen says and adds she does not believe penalising people is an effective way of improving the employment situation.

Trade unions have been vehemently opposed to the activation model from the very beginning. The unions predicted that it would be unjust, as it has in fact been.

Heikki Jokinen

Read more:
Citizens’ initiative to stop activation model voted down in Parliament following most unusual debate (21.02.2019)

Activation model neither activates people nor helps in finding a job, it simply cuts unemployment benefits (20.12.2018)

Unions organise political strikes against the cuts in employment security (02.02.2018)