Finnish salary levels, part I: an overview

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In this blog post on Finnish salary levels, we take a look at what statistics say about salary levels in Finland in general. In a previous blog post, we talked about how there’s no minimum wage in Finland. And we told you about the role collective agreements have in setting salary levels in Finland. Here, we’ll take a look at the salaries of some specific professions. 

This is the first installment of our series of two blog posts on salaries. After this general discussion this week, we’ll do another blog post next week. That post will focus on salaries of professions that are common in that segment of the Finnish population that has roots outside of Finland.  

In talking about salaries, average monthly salary figures can skew our understanding of what are representative salaries in employee groups were are interested in. This is because the highest salaries in any particular group tend to bring the overall average salary figures up. This may give too optimistic an impression of salary levels. 

More informative figures in this respect are median salaries since we know that precisely half of the salary earners in our group are either above or below the stated figure. Statistics Finland, which we mostly rely on in this and in next week’s blog, thus focuses more on median salaries than on average ones. We do the same here.

About Finnish salary levels in general

In the Finnish context, it makes sense to look at salary levels separately in the private and public sectors because, as you will see, there are large salary differences between these sectors. 

Although Finland has a large public sector, of all the employees in Finland, about 74 % were employed in the private sector in June 2020

According to recent statistics from Statistics Finland, the average monthly salary of full-time employees in the private sector was 3 794 € in 2019. The median monthly salary in turn was 3 350 €. Here we can see much higher the average salary is compared to the median salary. 

The top 10 % of salary earners earned at least 5 750 € a month. The bottom 10 % in turn earned 2 232 € or less per month.

Men in the private sector earned more than women. The median monthly salary of men was 3 777 € while for women it was 2 972 € for women in 2019.

In the public sector, salaries are lower. Statistics Finland reports that in 2019 the median monthly salary for regular working hours in the public sector was 2 910 €. 

Wage discrepancy between women and men also exists in the public sector. The median monthly salary for women in the public sector was 2 850 € in 2019. For men, it was 3 313 €. 

The top 10 % of salary earners in the public sector made at least 4 332 € a month. The bottom 10 %, in comparison, made 2 225 € or less a month. 

Thus, on average, employees in the private sector earn more than their counterparts in the public sector. Now, let’s look at salary levels in the most common professions in both the private and the public sectors. 

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Finnish salary levels in common professions in the private sector

In the private sector, the most common position is a sales position of some sort. There are 38 000 wage earners in this group. These salespeople work in grocery stores, in traffic hubs with stores and restaurants, in car sales, or as shift managers. Their median monthly salary without overtime pay was 2 453 € in 2019.

The second most common group also worked in sales but consists of such positions as sales reps, account managers, and technical salespersons. This group includes 34 000 salary earners. Their median monthly salary in 2019 was 4 000 €, but there was a large variation in monthly salaries in this group. 

In the private sector, the third most common profession has to do with software development. This group includes people with such titles as software developer, senior software developer, and software engineer. There are 19 000 wage earners in Finland who fit into this category. Their median monthly salary was 4 291 € in 2019.

In all of these three groups, women earned less than men.  

In terms of industries, the highest paying industry both in terms of average and median monthly salaries for regular working hours in the ICT industry. The second highest is the construction industry with a small margin over finance. 

Finnish salary levels in common professions in the public sector

In the public sector, employees most commonly work in healthcare and in the care of children and the elderly. They are also mostly women as 81 % of salaried workers in the public sector are women.

Those that work in healthcare and in the care of children and the elderly are practical nurses and childcare workers. 24 % of all public sector workers fall into this category. Their median monthly salary without any extras is 2 521 €. 

The second-largest group in the public sector are teachers. Their median monthly salary in 2019 was 3 579 €. The median salary of nurses, public health nurses, and midwives, in turn, was 3 003 € in 2019. The highest earners in the public sector are doctors, dentists, and departmental head nurses. Their median monthly salary in 2019 was 5 202 €. 

These reported median salaries do not take into account different types of extras. In some professions, the share of such extras in total monthly earnings varies. For example, for doctors, it is quite high as they get extra pay for example for being on-call. For them, different types of extras on average account for 22 % of their total monthly earnings.  Whereas for the whole public sector different types of extras account only about 3 % of total monthly earnings. 

Finnish salary levels examined based on education

The public-private sector comparison makes sense also in other ways. For example, the same educational background means different salary levels in these two sectors. 

In general,  in the private sector, the highest monthly median salaries were in the ICT field. There the median salary was 4 178 € per month in 2019. With ICT education, working in the private sector has clear benefits. Those with ICT education made clearly less in the public sector. In that sector, monthly median salaries for people with ICT education was only 2 998 € a month. 

The lowest median monthly salary in the private sector in 2019 was in the service field. There the median monthly salary was 2 563 €. They also earned the lowest salaries in the public sector. But with a monthly median salary of 2 420 €, the gap between the public and private sectors wasn’t last large as with ICT education. 

In the public sector, the highest median monthly salaries went to people with an education in the natural sciences. There the median monthly salary was 4 006 € per month. With a natural science background, it doesn’t seem to make any difference whether you work in the private or public sector. Their salary level in the private sector was essentially the same in 2019.

In both the private and public sectors, it pays to educate yourself further. In all educational levels except in the postgraduate phase employees in the private sector each more. The median monthly salary for postgraduate education holders in the public sector is 5 720 € when in the private sector it is 4 858 €. 

Want to know more?

The information we have used in this blog is publicly available in the Statistics Finland webpages. In various parts of this blog, we have referred to specific stats or reports published by Statistics Finland and given you links to those.

If you are looking for salary information on just a particular profession either in the private or in the public sector, you can use their site for that as well. Using their information requires knowing Finnish, unfortunately, but here are the links anyway. From this database, you can check the 2019 salary levels for recorded professions in the private sector. Here you can do the same for the public sector.  

In our blog next week, we’ll take a closer look at salary levels in professions that are common among the foreign-born Finnish residents (and we also talk about how they are defined).

If you want to learn more about the rules and regulations governing the Finnish working life, you are welcome to enroll in our extensive self-guided online course Working in Finland. Should you want to learn just about Finnish employment contracts we have an inexpensive mini-course just for that.

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