Statistics Finland: The majority of critical workers women

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In the spring, the government of Finland published a list of so-called critical workers. They characterized some as being 100 % critical and some 50 % critical. Statistics Finland published a report yesterday saying that 67 % of those working in fields deemed 100 % critical are women. 

Critical workers are those whose work is crucial for keeping the country’s wheels turning during a crisis like the current pandemic. 

We wrote about this in March right after the publication of that list. Statistics Finland has, however, looked at this issue a bit more. So, we return to the topic in this blog.

Critical fields

The fields that the government deemed critical were health and social services, education, and administration and support functions. The total number of workers in these fields is 735 000 of which about 67 % are women.

Statistics Finland tells us that 42 % of critical employees work in the health and social services, 17 % in education, and 10 % on administration and support functions. 

Within health and social services, the largest employee groups work in hospitals and care center wards. 73 000 employees work in this field. In the daycare field, there are 63 000 employees. In the elderly and disability housing services, there are 35 000 employees. 35 000 employees work in primary healthcare and 31 000 in elderly and disability out-patient care. 

Other large fields are cleaning services, primary and secondary education, upper secondary education, and transportation. 

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Critical professions within those fields

Statistics Finland extended their review of critical workers to the individual professions in which they are employed. 

They mention that within the health and social services sector, the largest group of critical workers are practical nurses. The next largest groups are nurses, childcare workers, and home aid workers. 

Their article does not mention the gender division in these professions, but their publicly available statistics help in this. According to those, 89.6 % of all practical nurses in Finland are women. 92.1 % of nurses, 95.7 % of childcare workers, and 89.1 % of home aids are women. Not all of them currently work in positions that are deemed critical, but the vast majority of these workers do and the vast majority of them are women. 

The next largest critical field is education. There the largest group of employees are primary school teachers. The next largest are secondary and upper secondary school teachers, university teachers, and vocational school teachers.

Again, the Statistics Finland online article does not give the gender profiles of these professions. Their online tools, however, allow us to take a look. In Finland, 78 % of all primary school teachers are women and 71.2 % of secondary and upper secondary school teachers are women. In universities and vocational schools, gender profiles are more equal. 51.7 % of university school teachers and 54.5 % of vocational school teachers are women. 

In the administration and support functions, the largest group are cleaners. Of them, 82.4 % are women. The next largest group are security guards. Here, the gender profile flips as only 25.9 % of them are women. 

These figures show, again, the rather extreme gender segregation of the Finnish job market. We discussed that in our March blog as well as, for example, here

Compensation for being “critical”

So, this is a glimpse of the people that keep our society functioning during this pandemic. They cannot work from home. Thus they get exposed to the virus in ways remote workers do not. 

Being designated “critical” is of course a sign of how valuable these professions are for Finnish society. Let’s look next at how much we value them in actual terms.

In some of our previous blogs, we’ve discussed Finnish salary levels. 

We told you that the median monthly salary of full-time workers in the private sector was 2 972 € for women and 3 777 € for men in 2019. In the public sector, the same figures were 2 850 € and 3 313 € respectively.

Here I’ve pulled the median monthly salaries in the municipal sector for these critical workers by gender. I’ve used the municipal sector salaries here because the majority of health and social services sector employees, as well as education sector employees, work in municipalities. 

Note, however, that university teachers are not actually part of the municipal sector at all. By definition, they work in the private sector (Finnish universities have not been a part of the state since 2010).  I have included them in this table for comparison’s sake. To show their salaries in perspective I’ve included here the median private-sector salaries as well. 

You can see from the image that women in about half of these critical professions make less than women’s median monthly salary in either the municipal or private sector. 

Male nurses and primary school teachers earn more than men’s median municipal salary, but they still earn less than men’s median salary in the private sector.

If we look at women and men together, again about half of the critical professions make less than the median monthly municipal salary. This is true also in terms of the number of workers in these critical occupations. Based on the figures in the Statistic Finland online article, about 325 000 employees work in these 10 fields. About 55.7 % of them make less than the median municipal monthly salary.

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