Government accused of jobs flop

Finnish government's failure to fullfil its promise of halving the number of unemployed is described as as one of the biggest flops in the country's political history. The condemning words are used by Helsingin Sanomat (19 February 2001) leader writer Risto Uimonen. He says that the reality of this failure should not be shrugged off as many want to do.

Uimonen writes that already in the middle of the government's previous term the failure became obvious.

"It was revealed when it emerged that Lipponen's first government's main weapon in the fight against unemployment was economic growth.

"The government closed its ears to demands of structural reforms and concentrated in repeating that its target will be realised within the promised timetable or at least nearly within it."

Uimonen reminds readers that this year Finland will have suffered mass unemployment for ten years. In this period, seven years have been a time of exceptionally strong economic growth, second fastest in Europe.

"In ten years, mass unemployment has cost almost 300 billion marks and caused immense mental anguish and anxiety; for hundreds of thousands of people the lack of a job has meant the loss of human dignity."

Uimonen says that the original idea was that with unemployment benefits, the unemployed will be helped over the worst period and they will be re-educated for new jobs. But now, in a time of labour shortages, it has become clear that this policy has failed.

"The country is suffering from long-time unemployment which probably can only be eliminated by transfering these people into the pension system.

"Mass unemployment has become a permanent feature of the Finnish welfare system. The system is so strong that during the recession it was able to support half a million unemployed and still now supports about 300,000 unemployed.

"With the hundreds of billions sunk into unemployment, it has been possible to 'buy' social peace and maintain political stability. Surely, however, this is not the purpose of the unemployment benefit system. Unemployment benefit should not be a permanent source of income but this is what it has become."

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