Government looks to UK for ideas on employment and integration

Minister Jari Lindström will be learning more about Britain's controversial back-to-work benefits system.

File picture of job interview / Credit: iStock

Employment minister Jari Lindström (Blue) is visiting the UK this week, looking for fresh ideas on how to get more people back to work, and how to better integrate migrants to Finnish society.

One programme the minister will be learning more about is how to put in place effective measures to promote employment among people who have partial work capacity.

“We know that the labour market in Finland does not provide adequate support for the participation of people with partial work capacity. We need their [British] input in the labour market, so it will be interesting to compare notes with my British colleague” says Lindström in a statement.

The government’s own ‘active model’ of employment, which uses more stick than carrot to get long-term unemployed people on a training course or into part time work by cutting benefits, has been widely criticised by unions, the public and other politicians.

In February 2018, a strike and protest brought thousands of people to the streets of Helsinki to highlight labour union hostility to the concept, which one long-term unemployed man described as “punishment” for people like him.

A citizens’ initiative to force the government to repeal its ‘active model’ laws quickly received more than 100,000 signatures, but was defeated ultimately in parliament, as MPs split along party lines, with the government coalition in the majority.

This week in London, Lindström will meet with officials to learn about the British Universal Credit scheme, which tries to simplify six monthly benefits into a single payment.

Critics of the Universal Credit scheme – and there are many critics – say it has failed to achieve its original goal of incentivising low-income households to get back into the job market. The scheme has been plagued by late payments, political opposition, and an endless flood of stories in the British media about official snafus that lead to increased hardship for claimants.

The UK’s National Audit Office says there’s no evidence that Universal Credit helps get people into work, and says it doesn’t provide value for money. Charities note that since Universal Credit came into force, there’s been a sharp rise in household poverty and the number of people relying on free handouts of food each month.

Integrating migrants

The issue of how to be more effective at integrating migrants has been widely discussed in Finland recently, including last week in parliament.

The ministry says that employment is an important fact or in helping with integration of refugees and asylum seekers and hopes to learn about strategies from the UK’s experience of the issue.

“We want efficient integration measures that help new arrivals to find quick paths to employment. Hopefully we will find good examples and experiences” in the UK, says Lindström.