Skills needed in the Finnish labor market today

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In today’s blog, we will take a look at the skills needed in the Finnish labor market today. This blog is based on Hanna Sutela’s and Pertti Taskinen’s recent blogs on the Statistic Finland web pages. 

Hanna Sutela discusses the skills needed in the Finnish labor market while Pertti Taskinen compares the requirements of the Finnish labor market to those of the Nordic countries and the EU in general. 

In our blog, we have discussed skills and the labor market in many posts. We have, for example, discussed the skills needs of the Finnish technology sector. We have also talked about the types of workers the Finnish labor market will need in the future. Especially we’ve discussed skills in relation to the reported labor shortage in the Finnish labor market. You can find one of those blog posts here

This discussion today is based on the 2022 Labor Force Survey of the Statistics Finland. This survey describes labor market participation by population aged 18 to 89. Statistics Finland collects the data with a sample survey. In 2022, the survey included an addition on skills needed by the labor market. Comparable data was collected in all EU countries as well as in Norway and Switzerland.  

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A bit more on the survey

In her blog, Hanna Sutela explains that the purpose of this European-wide survey was to discover what kind of skills or qualities employees need to have to accomplish their tasks. The goal was also to determine what kinds of jobs are in danger of disappearing with the advancement of technology. 

Researchers wanted to know how much time employees spent, for example, on cognitive, manual, and oral communication tasks respectively. 

They defined cognitive tasks as tasks that require complicated calculations or reading of work-related guides or profession-specific documents. Manual tasks refer to tasks that are physically demanding or require finger dexterity. Oral communication tasks included both oral communication within the workplace and with external stakeholders. 

Additionally, researchers across Europe wanted to know how much time employees spent on computers and smart devices and how much time they spent teaching and advising others. Some questions had to do with task repetition and the importance of following instructions to the last detail. 

Now, let’s get to some of the results. 

Computer skills crucial

Sutela tells us that just over a third of all employees use smart devices (computers, tablets, or smartphones) all the time or nearly all the time at work. About 50 % of employees used them at least half of the time. The EU average for this was about 40 %.

Employees in Finland, then, use smart devices more often than EU employees in general. However, this is notably less than in Sweden. According to Taskinen, just over 40 % of Swedish employees say that they use smart devices for the majority of their work hours. The share of employees that use smart devices at least half of the time is over 60 % in Sweden. Also, employees in Norway use smart devices more often than employees in Finland. 

Roughly 25 % of EU employees say they don’t use smart devices at all during their work hours. In Finland, about 12 % say the same. Thus digitalization is more advanced in the Nordic countries than it is elsewhere in the EU on average. We talked about digitalization in Finnish workplaces in this blog post about a year ago. 

If the use of smart devices was a very common feature of Finnish work life, doing complicated calculations or reading demanding work-related guides or publications wasn’t. These skills form an important part of the workday only for a very small minority of employees. Less than 6 % said that at least half of their workday was spent doing complicated calculations. About 7 % the same about reading demanding documents. 

These differ greatly from both the EU averages and the situation in Sweden. On average, 15 % of EU employees said they spent at least half of their workday doing complicated calculations. In Sweden, 14 % said the same. About 10 % of EU employees said reading demanding documents took at least half of their workday. In Sweden, this percentage was about 11. 

Gender and educational differences in the skills needed in the Finnish labor market today

The survey results indicate that physical strength and finger dexterity are not among the top skills that are needed in the Finnish labor market today. Only about 20 % of employees in Finland spend at least half of the workday doing tasks that require physical strength. For finger dexterity, the share is about 10 %.

Overall, oral communication, and teaching and instructing others are more common than the above two, but there are gender differences. Of women, nearly 40 % say that they spend at least half of their workday communicating orally within their workplaces and with outside stakeholders. In contrast, for men, these percentages are about 35 % and 20 % respectively.  

Women also spend more time teaching and instructing others than men do. Men, on the other hand, are more often engaged in complicated calculations and tasks requiring finger dexterity.  

Education plays a role. On the one hand, those employees who have a higher education degree more often spend at least half of their workday doing complicated calculations and reading demanding work-related guides and documents than those with a lower degree. They also spend more time orally communicating within their workplaces. On the other, they spend less time doing physically demanding tasks or tasks that require finger dexterity. 

Gender segregation as an explanation – again

As is often the case with the Finnish labor market, gender differences emerging from the data are rooted in the gender segregation of the Finnish labor market. This is true here as well.

As Sutela explains, men and women tend to work in different professions in Finland and those professions require different skills. Women in Finland more often work in customer service, education, sales, and social and health care. In those professions, communicating with outside stakeholders is a crucial part of the job. Teaching and instructing others are also important tasks in those professions. 

Sometimes, however, the connection between a skill and a profession is not straightforward. As we mentioned above, about 20 % of all employees in Finland, regardless of gender, said that they are engaged in physically demanding tasks at least half of their workday. The professions that demand physical strength are, however, quite different for women and men employees in Finland. 40 % of women working in physically demanding jobs work in health care professions. 10 % work in cleaning services. Of men who do physically demanding jobs, about a third work in construction and about 10 % in logistics.

Overall, performing physically demanding tasks is more common in Finland than in Sweden. In Sweden, about 16 % of employees say physically demanding tasks take at least of their workday. The EU average is just above 25 %. 

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