Government proposal: Accept work from further afield and also from outside your own field
Minister Jari Lindström was surrounded by reporters at the press conference. Photo: Marja Ikkala
The Government proposes that unemployed people should no longer be able to wait to find work from within their own occupational field. Moreover, they should use their own car to drive to a job offered from further afield, or risk losing their unemployment benefits.
Jari Lindström, Minister of Justice and Employment representing the Finns Party, today updated the employment package proposals aiming to get unemployed people back into work more quickly. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy is preparing amendments due to enter into force at the beginning of 2017.
‘This should open up new employment opportunities for about 10,000 people who are currently unemployed,’ Lindström said at a press conference about the effects of the proposals.
Stricter rules on accepting full-time work
Unemployed jobseekers would be required to accept full-time employment even if the pay received from a new job is lower than their unemployment benefits. In the future, income comparison rules would only apply to part-time work.
Occupational immunity will be eliminated. While to date, unemployed people have only been obliged to accept work falling outside their own occupational field after three months of unemployment, in the future they may be offered work from another field from the very first day of unemployment.
At the press conference, someone actually asked whether this would mean that unemployed engineers and other Master’s degree-holders will work as cleaners from now on.
Päivi Kerminen, Government Counsellor from the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, answered that ‘the use of common sense is allowed’ and that jobs from other fields would be offered ‘on a case-by-case basis’, considering each unemployed individual’s prior employment history. In addition, the employer must also be satisfied with the prospective recruitment.
90-minut commutes both ways
Unemployed jobseekers must also be prepared for longer drives to work, if they happen to own a car. At present, you are obliged to accept a job if the workplace is located within your commuting area, i.e. within an 80-kilometre radius of your home. In the future, your daily commute could take as long as 3 hours in full-time employment (i.e. 90 minutes both ways) and 2 hours in part-time work when using your own car.
According to Government Counsellor Kerminen, in the future, commutes will be calculated in terms of travel time instead of kilometres. Even today, jobseekers are expected to accept full-time employment outside their commuting area if the daily commute is 3 hours on public transport, while the corresponding requirement for part-time work is 2 hours.
The Government also wants to encourage people to move to take up employment and to commute outside their immediate area – usually their municipality – of residence. A new type of support, mobility allowance, combines the present travel allowance and compensations for moving costs. An unemployed person taking up work far from home for 4 months could receive compensation equal to the basic unemployment allowance to cover the travel costs for a maximum period of 2 months.
The ‘stick department’ includes stricter rules governing labour market suspension, i.e. waiting periods. If an unemployed person refuses to accept a guaranteed job, they would be subject to a 90-day waiting period without unemployment benefits, whereas the current period of labour market suspension is 60 days. However, if the individual reconsiders effectively and accepts a job within 30 days, they would be spared from labour market suspension.
More candidates in service sectors?
Markku Virtanen, Director of the PAM Unemployment Fund, says that the proposals do not cause any significant difficulties or inconveniences for service sector workers. For instance, stricter rules on accepting full-time employment will not have any major effect on service sector workers who have lost their jobs.
‘The level of benefits in the service sectors is low enough to ensure that earnings-related benefits are seldom better than pay from a new full-time job. This is more of a problem for engineers or well-paid industrial sectors.’
In his opinion, elimination of occupational immunity is subject to interpretation. In practical terms, however, the obligation to accept employment outside your own occupational field would become stricter.
‘Will there be more candidates for service sectors, now that some of our sectors are facing mismatch problems, in other words, vacancies without people to fill them?’ Virtanen muses.