Interesting new insights into gender segregation in the Finnish labor market

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Last week in our blog we took a look at diversity (or rather, the lack thereof) among CEOs of Finnish publicly listed companies. This week we offer another look at gender diversity and introduce new and interesting data on gender segregation in the Finnish labor market.

Statistics Finland – an endless source of interesting info

At the end of last year, Statistics Finland published a very interesting statistical study into Finnish working conditions in 2018. Statistics Finland publishes these studies approximately once in every five years. In addition to just looking at 2018 data, this latest report from 2019 also discusses trends and changes that have taken place in Finnish workplaces since 1977.

We are planning on using this report in a number of our forthcoming blogs because it contains a wealth of information for anyone interested in Finnish working life. This time, however, we will not be using that survey directly, but rely on a blog post by Jere Immonen and Hanna Sutela. 

Jere Immonen is a Senior Statistician at the Population and Social Statistics Department of Statistics Finland. Hanna Sutela, in turn, is a Senior Researcher at the Population and Social Statistics Department of Statistics Finland. In their recent blog post, they use statistical information to provide yet another angle from which to examine gender segregation in the Finnish labor market

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Gender segregation in the Finnish labor market

Women in Finland have an internationally high employment rate (74.5 % in comparison to the EU27 average of 66.5%). More importantly, the gap between the employment rate of men and women in Finland is small in comparison with, for example, most European countries.  This might suggest that the Finnish labor market is significantly more equal in terms of gender than that of many other countries. The Finnish labor market, however, doesn’t appear that equal in one respect. As is the case in many countries, the Finnish labor market is highly segregated by gender.  

Women in Finland are more likely to work in female-dominated workplaces in the public sector, and men in male-dominated jobs in the private sector. If we look at individual fields, we can see that most of these sectors are dominated either by men or women

The most male-dominated fields in 2019 were construction (91 % men), hauling and warehouse (80 % men), and electricity, water, waste disposal sector (75 % men). 

The most female-dominated sectors in 2019 were health and social services (86 % women), education (68 % women), and the hospitality industry (68 %). In 2017, less than 9 % of the Finnish workforce worked in fields where there is an equal distribution of genders. 

But as the blog post by Immonen and Sutela shows, gender segregation isn’t only apparent in the fields in which men and women work. It’s only visible in working conditions. 

Job quality indices

In their analysis, Immonen and Sutela developed five job quality indices which they used to describe Finnish working conditions. These indices resemble those of Eurofound, but are specific to the Finnish data. The purpose of the indices is to describe different aspects of job quality. They are: 

  • Opportunities to develop and influence working conditions. This index measures the possibility for employees to influence different aspects of their jobs, and to develop their skills. It also measures learning opportunities and the level of appreciation they feel they receive for their professional skills. It also measures levels of work engagement.
  • Social environment. This index measures the relationship between employees and their managers and the appreciation they receive from their work community. It also measures experiences of workplace bullying.
  • Working time flexibility. This index measures the possibility of employees to arrange their working time flexibly and to influence when they can take their vacations. It also measures the need employees feel to be flexible towards the demands of their employers and managers.
  • Physical environment. This index measures the different types of physical hazards employees may have in their work environment. These include, for example, excessive noise, heavy lifting, and bad air quality. It also measures different types of risks for their physical wellbeing. 
  • Work intensity. The last index measures how taxing work is in terms of mental energy. And it measures how busy employees feel they are.

Using these indices they generated five distinct employee profiles that describe Finnish work life. They have descriptive names for each of these profiles. Let’s look at them next.

Five employee profiles

In the employee profile they labeled Good jobs, all the five indices were above average. This was the largest of the employee profiles. It comprises 35 % of Finnish wage earners. 

In these jobs, people were happy with the opportunities they were given for skills improvement and learning. They felt valued professionally and they liked the way their job was organized. In these jobs, working hours are flexible and work isn’t too taxing physically or mentally. 

18 % of employees could be categorized to be employed in decent manual labor. This describes jobs were flexibility in terms of working hours is low as are possibilities for learning and skills improvement. These jobs, however, scored above average in social environment and work intensity. The work is physically demanding.  Despite this, quite many feel very engaged with their job. 

In jobs that are ruined by haste, many factors are on the positive side. But work is clearly characterized by haste. Work is not physically demanding and offers plenty of opportunities for skill development and learning. Thus work engagement is common, although haste makes the jobs psychologically taxing. 17 % of Finnish wage earners work in these types of jobs.

In taxing jobs, working hours are not flexible and the physical working environment is demanding. Work doesn’t offer that many possibilities for skill development or learning. These jobs also score low on social engagement. 11 % of wage earners in Finland work in these types of jobs. 

Heavy manual labor describes jobs where the job is taxing on multiple fronts. Particularly taxing is the physical environment in which these jobs have to be performed. Very few employees in this category feel that they have any say in how their job is organized or how they organize their working hours. The group is also characterized by low work engagement. About 20 % of Finnish wage earners work in these types of jobs. 

Women and men in these job profiles

The authors of this study provide plenty of information about what kind of jobs fall into these different job profiles. They discuss professions, different types of employers (state, university, municipalities, and private), and education levels. 

They note, for example, that there are good jobs in many professions. Such jobs are not restricted to some privileged portions of the workforce. For example, 40 % of farmers and forestry workers are employed in good jobs

However, what they particularly pay attention to is that 42 % of men worked in good jobs whereas only 28 % of women did. They also point out that while about half of all wage earners work in jobs that have good or decent job profiles (good jobs and decent manual jobs) more detailed analysis shows clear gender segregation. About 60 % of men work in jobs like these. Only about 46 % of women do.

Although the indices Immonen and Sutela developed are not directly comparable to those used by Eurofond, they were able to present some rough comparisons with European working conditions. Finnish working conditions, in general, compare favorably with European working conditions. However, they concluded that European data doesn’t show similar levels of gender segregation in terms of job quality. 

Final words

Gender segregation in the Finnish labor market is not a new phenomenon. Nor is it an unknown one. On the contrary, there have been plenty of discussions about it and also initiatives meant to change it. This short study by Immonen and Sutela, however, provides a completely new perspective on the issue.

As Immonen and Sutela point out, though, it’s not all bad. Good and decent jobs include a large variety of different professions. They are also distributed among the four different types of employers as well as among different education levels. These suggest that by improving working conditions a bigger proportion of wage earners could be employed in good and decent jobs. Irrespective of gender, education level, or socio-economic background. It just depends on what our priorities are in developing Finnish working life. 

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