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

Helsinki (20.12.2018 - Heikki Jokinen) Only 30 per cent of the unemployed have been able to meet the new criteria to get uncut unemployment benefit under the amended employment security legislation, according to a survey conducted among 6,000 members of unemployment funds run by the unions belonging to the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions SAK.

The Finnish right-wing Government introduced, at the beginning of 2018, the so called activation model whereby 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.

The job-seeker must either find employment for 18 hours in a three month period, receive entrepreneurial income of at least 241 euro or participate in a five day training course or be available for other services offered by the employment offices.

According to the survey, the main reasons for not meeting the new criteria are lack of work and employment services. Those over 55 years of age or those living in the countryside or in Northern Finland in particular experience major difficulties in finding any kind of job.

In Northern Finland 61 per cent did not find any short time or temporary work as would be needed to receive full unemployment benefit. In the Uusimaa region around the metropolitan Helsinki area the percentage was 47.

– Unemployed people over 55 years of age say that they cannot get work and are not accepted on training courses as employers see them as already too old. For these people, the activating model is just a cut in unemployment security on top of their already small incomes, says Saana Siekkinen, SAK Head of Development Project of Unemployment Security.

When asked whether the new model has activated them to seek a job, enlist in training courses or start up their own business 73 per cent disagree. In the free comments people say that they find the new system penalising, pointless, and a time consuming exercise in bureaucracy, not to mention humiliating.

The fact that an unemployed person’s benefit may be cut regardless of what he or she tries to do to comply with the new demands is widely seen as unfair, especially as the employment office services and training are not always available.

When asked how people have found work, only seven per cent say through the  employment offices. By contrast 32 per cent say through friends and their own network.

The activating model does not create permanent employment, but instead forces people to take gig jobs and part time work which in effect leaves people with little option but to make do with precarious short time jobs and the gig economy, says Anu-Hanna Anttila, Head of Research at the Industrial Union.

And without question this was precisely the intention of PM Sipilä, she says.

The Industrial Union made a separate survey from among 2,704 of their unemployed members. The results and experiences were quite similar to those in the SAK member unions.

The trade unions have been strongly opposing the cuts in employment security. In fact, they accurately predicted what would happen if the new legislation was introduced, and this now has unfortunately come to pass.

SAK says it will introduce in January a new proposal on how to renew unemployment security. It already published in January this year its own encouragement scheme as an alternative to the Government punishment model.