Kuuleminen EU:n sosiaalisten oikeuksien toimintasuunnitelmasta

Kuuleminen EU:n sosiaalisten oikeuksien toimintasuunnitelmasta

Suomi oli tänään komissaari Nicolas Schmitin kuultavana  EU:n sosiaalisten oikeuksien toimintasuunnitelmasta.  Schmit on työllisyydestä ja sosiaalisista oikeuksista vastaava komissaari.

Verkkokeskusteluun osallistuivat sosiaali- ja terveysministeri Aino-Kaisa Pekonen ja valtiosihteeri Saila Ruuth. Mukana kuultavana oli edustajia elinkeinoelämästä, ammattiyhdistysliikkeestä sekä järjestöistä. Työttömien Keskusjärjestöstä kuulemiseen osallistui toiminnanjohtaja Jukka Haapakoski.

Keskustelun aiheet liittyivät sosiaalisten oikeuksien pilarin kolmeen alueeseen:

  1. Yhtäläiset mahdollisuudet ja pääsy työmarkkinoille
  2. Oikeudenmukaiset työolot
  3. Sosiaalinen suojelu ja osallisuus.

Alla Työttömien Keskusjärjestön toiminnanjohtajan Jukka Haapakosken lausuma englanniksi:

Thank you very much for this invitation and honour to discuss the Social platform of the European Union with you!

I represent the Finnish National Organization of the Unemployed. We have 73 member NGOs around Finland which provide material aid, welfare and work placements for the long term unemployed.

Some of these NGOs have access to state and municipal aid and have become professionalized. Many are based on volunteer work – and are involved in distributing food aid. The focus is on the sticky long term unemployment. The age profile of involvement tends to be above 50 years old, but there is variety across the working age (also substantial participation from retired folks).

In Finland we have a fairly large and varied NGO sector in the social and health sector. These NGOs patch gaps and work as partners in the field of social and health services that are not addressed or are outsourced by the municipal or national level. Main funding for the head social and health NGOs come from the Finnish gambling monopoly (Veikkaus).

1. Equal opportunities and access to the job markets

In Finland there is a lot of work to be done in the field of equal opportunities for accessing work. Finland is a geographically large and spread out country where opportunities for commercial activities within it vary.

The main groups, which can be identified in this sphere of equal opportunities are immigrants, over 50 + year old job seekers, job seekers with social or health related handicaps and low qualified job seekers. Youth unemployment is also an issue as regards the Not in Employment, Education and Training (NEET) segment of the population. Also the number of partially employed entrepreneurs and workers has gradually been increasing and the issue of social security for the long term unemployed and partially working groups is a major social issue.

There are key gender-based differences especially regarding part time work and the issue of underemployment. In the year 2019 of all women, 22 % were part time workers and of all men 11 % were part time workers. Of all underemployed workers (who would like to work more hours) 62 % were women. Maternal leave is not equally distributed in practice between the genders. 2/3 of entrepreneurs are men. (Source THL).

Arguably the easiest disenfranchised group to incorporate into the Finnish labour market is the immigrant based job seekers. Finland, traditionally having been a fairly homogenous population, still has a lot to learn about immigration.

The problems to be addressed are that over the EU borders qualifications are not properly assessed/standardized, the culture of prejudice and in some cases racism and addressing the work first principle regardless of the reasons for coming to Finland. Finland also has two official languages, which is a difficult requirement when accessing public office. Getting a work permit can be slow. Immigrants with no work permits are referred to social security instead of temporary work – which increases unemployment duration and stickiness.

With regards to public employment services there is a long-standing issue relating to thousands of unemployed people, that their capacity for working is so severely limited by their health condition that they should not be deemed unemployed at all. Instead they should be retired from the labour service. Information should circulate in our complicated health services – where information between municipal owned, and privately owned job insurance based health services is not adequately shared and utilized.

Despite these information gaps the Public employment agency maintain that their artificial intelligence -based segmentation can determine with over 80 % accuracy the likelihood of a person’s long term unemployment. If we can determine who is to become long term unemployed, why do we systematically wait to provide solutions (e.g. waiting one or two years for eligibility for income aid etc.)?

 

Social protection, inclusion and empowerment

With respect to social protection, inclusion and empowerment, active labour market policies provide key instruments to provide opportunities and jobs for the long term unemployed and people with social and health handicaps.

With respect to Scandinavian countries, Finland is far behind in the utilization and investment on active labour market policies (for example Sweden spent 2,26 billion Euros, when Finland spent 243 million on income assistance to employers in the year 2018 https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-11004624).

There are many actors (state, municipal, private and NGOs), but limited coordination between the actors in the field and limited information regarding the needs of the unemployed transpires between the actors within the system. Despite the handicaps, substantial work is being done by active labour market actors (https://tem.fi/julkaisu?pubid=URN:ISBN:978-952-327-578-2).

With regard to judicious and inclusive growth to a digital and green economy the question is what are the incentives for the private sector and how much can such growth be facilitated by government intervention?

The European Union accepts government intervention with regards to green growth to such extent that it is not an issue even if there are effects on cross border trade. The European Union does not sponsor to such a great extent government intervention with regards to supporting labour inclusive programs or the Social Economy (this relates to for example rulings on de minimis and general block exemption rulings and exceptions to those rulings – in Finland employment programmes have not been notified to the EU). To be truly inclusive we maintain that the government sector should be investing more in active labour market policies.

We have had discussions with the officials on whether it is possible to employ people with state aid on recycling or selling products that have been discarded or given free by consumers. Recycling done well is very labour intensive, and a fairly good way to provide jobs for unskilled workers. If state aid were to be banned, then Finland would take a few steps back in recycling.

Finnish law makers have ruled that in some cases cafeterias “affect trade on a European Union level”, and thus cafeterias where long term unemployed people have been employed with 100 % government subsidies have been shut down. The 50 percent income subsidy (available to all economic actors) is simply not enough in our experience, and such cafeterias serving mainly unemployed or retired people have been pushed to the margins after the introduction of EU legislation.

In Finland the consumer market for services is fairly small and spread out compared to more concentrated areas in central Europe. That should be taken into consideration when building proposals for the Social Economy.

 

Possible EU specific proposal

So what can be done? One step could be to raise the value of de minimis regulation from 200 000 euros in three years to a higher level. Such regulation could be rephrased to take into account the median income of the population. For example regarding wages there is major difference between (Luxembourg or Finland with respect to Bulgaria and Romania. In the latter countries state aid could be used to hire much more labour for commerce using de minimis regulation (approx. 5 – 7 times as much as in Finland).

The EU does not easily distinguish between goods and services provided for the general good with government subsidies from privately produced goods and services. Market outcomes seem to de facto prevail. When the market is introduced to provide a service, municipalities or governments seem to be unable to retrack after poorly made decisions. Issues with monopoly arise. Legislation allowing municipalities and governments to disband monopolies/or oligopolistic cartels should be possible and actively assessed. This relates to privatization contracts in the energy sector, or in the realm of health care homes for the mentally or physically disabled.

2. What can we do as an organization to support the enforcement of the European social pillars?

Our role is simply to advocate for the human rights, and the social and health well-being of unemployed people in Finland and promote access to dignified work and pay. Our organization can and does raise issues for public discussion. Our member NGOs provide direct access to work and active labour market tools and advocacy in the local level. Plus these organizations distribute food aid.

3. What should be done to manage and incorporate the social pillars into action?

The problem regarding the EU pillars is that they are not legally binding in a strict sense. There seem to not be any major consequences for governments that break these pillars. If governments/nations would be punished with respect to inter European trade arrangements, when they substantially and repeatedly break these social pillars commonly agreed upon, then we would be in a different ball park.

The European Union has repeatedly reprimanded Finland for the inadequacy of our minimum guaranteed income (less than 60 % of median income). Finland has repeatedly given their side of the story as required by EU law. Nearly nothing has been done. Reporting should be done by a neutral arbiter and consequences for malfeasance should be enforced.

When government over loan, credit raters raise interest rates. There could be a social interest rate, when governments deemed to substantially disregard the social pillars, the social interest rate would be raised and collected by the European Union. The money would be used to address the main issues.

Some concrete examples to address the issues would be that the money thus collected could be directly used perhaps as money transfers, or a subsidy for access to jobs and education for the socially disenfranchised. The money collected could also be used as a grant for established and responsible NGOs, which promote and act for social change. They could be empowered to participate more in their local government decision making across the board as advisors.

 

Jukka Haapakoski
Chief Executive,
The Finnish National Organization of the Unemployed
+358 40 508 5377
jukka.haapakoski@tyottomat.fi

Komissaari Nicolas Schmit kuuli Suomen edustajia EU:n sosiaalisten oikeuksien toimintasuunnitelmasta.

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