The Federation of Finnish SME’s has just published its latest economic barometer that sets out a bullish outlook for their members’ business.
Pretty well every measure is positive, except for one noticeable and growing challenge – this is the serious lack of skilled workers. Over half of all SME’s say that this is limiting growth, and some 14% of members say that this is a major problem. This number is significantly higher compared to one year ago.
The CEO of the Federation, Mr. Pentikäinen, is demanding reforms in education to train people for jobs, as well as big reforms of the labor market that will allow companies to fix their own wage agreements in place of the present agreements decided upon by the trade unions and the employers’ unions.
He says, “How can different companies with different costs structures and activities be forced to increase wages by the same amount, without reference to their own particular needs? The whole process of the long 100 to 150 page collective agreements need to be reformed.”
These agreements set out detailed work conditions for whole groups of employees and are not suited to today’s global markets, according to the CEO.
The Minister of Economic Affairs, Mr. Lintilä, confirmed the importance of SMe’s that account for two thirds of all new jobs. He stated that there was no silver bullet to solve the problem of matching job opportunities with workers. Many reforms are needed to improve mobility, training, to get the unemployed into work.
The government has already introduced a number of reforms to force the unemployed to seek jobs rather than staying on unemployment benefits. One reform has been to reduce the benefits while forcing the unemployed to met with employment advisors on a regular basis to ensure that they either apply for a fixed number of jobs or retraining. This reform has met with some opposition from the unemployed and the unions.
A second reform to ensure greater female participation in the workforce has been a proposal to reduce the time and money available for female parental leave, while at the same time allowing men to take over some more extended period of parental leave.
The present and past governments all agree that childcare at professionally managed kindergartens is more effective for the child’s early development than the present system where mothers or untrained carers look after the very young at home.
Unfortunately this proposal has been rejected by the Centre Party because of strong religious beliefs that home is the best place for child care, together with a fear that further reductions in child benefits will not be supported by their voter base.