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Announcement of Prime Minister Sanna Marin on the Government’s policy in 2020

Government Communications Department
Publication date 11.2.2020 14.02 | Published in English on 13.2.2020 at 14.49
Prime Minister's Announcement

Speech delivered by Prime Minister Sanna Marin in the Parliament plenary session on 11 February 2020. Check against delivery:

Mr Speaker,

Distinguished Members of Parliament,

We are now beginning work in the first parliamentary session of the 2020s. At hand is a decade of decisions with regard to mitigating climate change, Finnish competence, wellbeing and the sustainability of public finances.

We have emerged as one of the most prosperous and competent nations in the world as we have built Finland into a Nordic welfare society. Its cornerstones are equality between people, ensuring the wellbeing of individuals and families irrespective of their place of residence and age, a high level of competence and employment, strong public, private and third sectors, and partnership between these sectors.

The Nordic welfare model is a success story by almost every measure, but it is never complete. Finland, like all of the world’s countries, is facing a major challenge in renewing its economy, production and consumption in order to become more environmentally sustainable.

Global warming and declining biodiversity are among the most critical threats facing humanity. This is a fact that we live with, whether or not we want to. At the same time as climate change is a huge challenge for us, its mitigation is an opportunity for Finland to create new jobs, competence, technological solutions and exports. It is an opportunity for us to strengthen our economy and the wellbeing of our citizens. That is why we should be trailblazers.

The Government’s most important task is to rejuvenate the Nordic welfare society to be ecologically sustainable and to ensure that change takes place in a regionally and socially equitable manner. At the same time, we want to strengthen our competence, employment and business structure. We want Finland to be a good country for people and for business in the future as well.

Our promise is to build Finland on an economically responsible, socially just and environmentally sustainable base. We will work to this end daily.

During this parliamentary session, the Government will introduce 212 proposals and 12 reports in Parliament, by which we will bring Finland forward together. The focus of the Government’s work is to improve the lives of ordinary people.

Mr Speaker,

The Government aims to raise the employment rate in Finland to 75 per cent. The Nordic welfare society is financed through strong employment. The sustainability of public finances requires a clearly higher employment rate than at present. Ageing of the population and the increasing service needs also require that more and more people of working age are employed.

The Government is committed to strengthening employment. This requires the right balance between employment services and availability, and obligations to accept work. We will increase appropriations for employment, the recruitment of international talent and integration by almost EUR 250 million. The Government will invest in an active employment policy. Its cornerstones are services that are more personalised than at present, development of the pay subsidy, increasing the responsibility and possibilities of municipalities, and the availability of access to a skilled labour.

In response to service development needs, a number of proposals will be presented to this parliamentary session. Use of the pay subsidy by enterprises will be increased significantly, thus promoting the employment of unemployed people on the open labour market. We will introduce legislation on a recruitment subsidy trial. The aim of the trial is to promote the rapid employment of the unemployed, advance the emergence of new employer companies and foster enterprise growth by lowering the threshold for sole traders and micro-enterprises to employ workers. We will also present a bill to Parliament on the municipal employment trial. In the trial, some of the Employment and Economic Development Offices’ (TE Offices) tasks will be transferred to the municipalities. The aim is to better reconcile the competence, resources and services of the state and municipalities. This will improve labour market access especially for long-term unemployed persons and those in a weaker labour market position.

The legislation on rehabilitative work will be reformed. The definition of work activities will be specified. It should also include the support and guidance needed by the individual. These should also be recorded in the person’s activation plan. The proposal will strengthen the nature of rehabilitative work activities as a social welfare service.

Rules and an equal working life are the primary principles in the comprehensive review of work-based immigration processes. Work to accelerate and streamline work permit applications has already begun in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment.

The Government is committed to demonstrating measures equivalent to 30,000 new employed persons by the 2020 Government budget session. The preparation of measures has progressed in line with the steps planned. Preparation of some of the measures is well advanced. The Government is also committed to preparing additional measures in order to achieve this goal. It is important to reach the employment target in order to achieve the general government financial balance in accordance with the Government programme. The Government will not exclude any means of improving employment from the review. We are also ready to make difficult decisions.

Mr Speaker,

Ageing Finns deserve to grow old safely and with dignity. For this reason, the Government will present to Parliament a proposal on a statutory staffing level in services for older people. It will be proposed that the Act include the obligation of a minimum staffing of at least 0.7 employees for older people’s enhanced 24-hour care. The proposal will distinguish between care and work in support services. Nurses need to be able to focus on nursing. Ensuring this is also an investment in the wellbeing at work of professionals who have had to consider changing sectors because of the increased workload.

We want to guarantee equal health and social services for everyone and everywhere in Finland. Access to treatment will therefore be improved and treatment queues shortened. At present, only one in four Finns lives in an area where non-urgent medical care is available in less than two weeks. There are also socioeconomic differences in access to services. In practice, this means that people with a low income are not cared for as well as others. This is not right.

We will present before Parliament a proposal to amend the Act on health care, i.e. the care guarantee. The aim is to improve the availability of basic health and social services and to speed up access to care in non-urgent situations.

We will also present reform of the Act on Client Charges in Health and Social Services before Parliament. The aim is to remove obstacles to treatment and to increase equity in health. Services provided free of charge will be expanded, and new services will be included in the scope of the payment cap.

An office of an ombudsperson on older people’s rights will be established, to strengthen the realisation of quality in services for older people.

Mr Speaker,

We are no longer living in an age where young people can gain employment and prosper in their lives with a mere comprehensive school education. In three decades, 600,000 jobs for which such an  education was sufficient have disappeared from Finland. The employment rate of those with only a comprehensive school education is around 40 per cent. Thus, a greater number of them are outside working life than at work. An insufficient education limits the individual’s opportunities in a world where new competence is needed all the time.

For this reason we are presenting to Parliament a proposal to raise the compulsory school age to 18. The aim is to ensure that every comprehensive school leaver completes at least a secondary education. At the same time, preparatory secondary-level training and articulation guidance will be developed. Extending compulsory schooling is also an important act of equality for young people and families, as it makes secondary education genuinely free of charge.

We will also invest in the health and wellbeing of young people by presenting to Parliament a nationwide trial on free contraception for those under 25 years of age.

Mr Speaker,

The Government wants to build a more equal working life and family life. During this parliamentary term, the long-awaited reform of family leave will be presented before Parliament. It will increase the wellbeing and freedom of choice of families and strengthen equality.

Family leave will be developed, understanding the different life situations of families. Both parents will receive parental leave of the equal length, but some parental leave can be transferred flexibly to the other parent. The share of earnings-related parental leave will increase, which is a significant improvement for families. The aim of the reform is that responsibilities and rights concerning care of the small child will be distributed more equally between parents, non-discrimination and equality in working life will be strengthened, and gender disparities in pay will be reduced.

To strengthen equality in Finland, much still remains to be done to eradicate violence against women. As one of the many measures needed to remedy the situation, we will propose the establishment in Finland of a post for an independent rapporteur on violence against women. We will also present before Parliament a proposal on changes to the Marriage Act pertaining to the annulment of forced marriages.

Mr Speaker,

Finland has always been involved in building a rules-based world. We work on behalf of this as part of the European Union. The EU is our channel for influencing world development, and therefore we are developing the European Union into a more united actor on the international stage. After our Presidency, we will focus on influencing of the greatest importance to Finland, including for instance the EU Green Development Program, the Green Deal, and the development of Economic and Monetary Union (EMU).

The change in the international operating environment and our solutions in responding to the change affect the whole society and all Finns. A stronger multilateral system is in the interest of a small country, but also of the international community as a whole. Finland has shown responsibility and activity in joint efforts to strengthen the UN, crisis management, eradication of poverty, respect for human rights and equality, and the establishment of rules for fair trade.

Our policy is deeply anchored in Parliament. The Government will submit to Parliament a report on foreign and security policy before the summer recess, and a report on the Europe policy in the autumn.

Mr Speaker,
Finland can be a trailblazer in mitigating climate change. The change to a climate-sustainable society can be done fairly and gradually, and so that everyone can keep pace.

Our goal is that Finland will be carbon neutral in 2035 and carbon negative soon thereafter. We are committed to making decisions that reduce Finland's emissions and strengthen carbon sinks.

We both encourage and urge Finnish industry to reduce its emissions. We are accelerating the introduction of new clean technologies that will improve the competitiveness of our industry and our enterprises. There is great demand and a huge market for new climate technology in the world.

We will implement climate actions in Finland, but it is at least as important to contribute to halting global warming internationally. The climate knows no national borders. Each country must do its share.

Mr Speaker,

The Government will renew parliamentary committee work, through which many sweeping reforms will be brought before this parliamentary session for preparation together with Parliament. The new model for committee work will strengthen the openness, inclusion and broad knowledge base of preparatory work. Cooperation is a key element of committee work.

That is why I will conclude by speaking about cooperation. It is natural that the Government and the opposition disagree on many issues, but not on everything. It is worthwhile to seek cooperation on issues where there is a common view or which require preparation extending beyond an electoral term.

In this parliamentary session, we need dialogue and the ability to cooperate so that together we can find solutions for a better tomorrow.