The occupations hardest hit by the pandemic in Finland in 2020

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In this blog post, we examine what were the occupations that were hit the hardest by the pandemic in Finland in 2020. The blog is based on a recent data released by Statistics Finland

We have discussed the effects of the pandemic before in our blog. Early on in the pandemic, in March of last year, we discussed the so-called critical workers and who they actually are. We returned to the same topic again in March of this year in our second Minna Canth Day post. Recently, we reported on the new study on the labor market effects of the pandemic on women and men in the Finnish labor market

This week, rather than looking at men and women, we’ll focus on the occupations hardest hit by the pandemic in Finland in 2020. 

Before we move on, however, a note on the terminology as this can be confusing. Layoff as a word can mean both a fixed-term or permanent termination of an employment contract. This is how we used it in an earlier blog. Furlough, on the other hand, usually refers to a company stopping the salary payment of an employee temporarily. This means that the employee still has a valid employment contract but is not currently doing that job or receiving a salary for it.

In this blog, we use the term furlough rather than layoff. 

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About furloughs in general in 2020 

As we discussed elsewhere, normally in a recession men’s employment is normally hit hard and women’s employment follows suit a little later. 

This is because in Finland men tend to be employed in sectors that are heavily dependent on global demand. Women in Finland are more often employed in the service sector. Recessions hit those sectors belatedly when the domestic demand takes a hit. 

The pandemic recession didn’t follow the usual pattern. The labor market was hit hard and it was hit fast across the board.

In late March 2020, YLE reported that there was a sharp increase in the number of terminated and furloughed employees in mid-March 2020. They mentioned furloughs in such manufacturing companies as Metso, Ponsse, and Nokia Renkaat. On the other hand, the article mentioned restaurant closures. 

In the same YLE article, Heikki Räsänen of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment predicted that Finland would see an increase of 50 000 to 70 000 unemployed annually due to the pandemic. 

As a response to the rapidly changing economic situation, the government made it temporarily easier to furlough employees. We also mentioned these temporary changes in our blog about layoffs in March 2020.

Indeed the number of furloughed employees rose sharply in 2020. The number of furlough periods also saw a sharp increase compared to 2019.

In 2020, the number of furloughed employees increased by 225 000 individuals. This was a 636 % increase from the year before. The number of furlough periods, in turn, rose by 610 % from the year before.

But who were these people? We are going to examine that next.

The occupations hardest hit by the pandemic in Finland in 2020

Statistics Finland calculated the following percentages by comparing occupational data from 2019 with data on persons having become unemployed or furloughed in 2020.

They tell us that the occupations that were proportionally hardest hit were plant and machine operators and assemblers, crafts and related trades workers, and service and sales workers. 

15.7 % of plant and machine operators and assembles were furloughed in 2020. This means 31 000 employees. Out of all crafts and related trades workers, 14.8 % (35 000) were also furloughed. 

In turn, 71 000 service and sales workers were furloughed. This means that out of all service and sales workers 14.7 % were furloughed in 2020.

On the flip side, only 5.9 % of all managers were furloughed in 2020. 

Professionals were almost equally secure in their employment. Last year, 7.3 % of all professionals were furloughed at one time or another. 

Let’s look at these large occupational groupings in more detail.

(By the way, you can find the Statistics Finland occupational classification here. There you can see what occupations these groups consist of.)

The hardest-hit occupations

Out of all occupations, aircraft pilots and associated professionals suffered the most. 75.3 % of them were furloughed during 2020. 

Travel attendants and travel stewards were also hard hit. 74.5 % of them were also furloughed last year. 

Other occupations that were hard hit by the pandemic include hotel receptionists (58.5 %), aircraft engine mechanics and repairers (56.5 %), and opticians (53.7 %).  

If we examine numbers of individuals rather than proportions, shop sales assistants were the largest group of furloughed employees. 18 400 shop sales assistants were furloughed during 2020.

8 300 cooks suffered the same fate. As did 7 200 commercial sales representatives. 

But how long were they kept out of their workplaces?

The length of the furlough periods

A third of those furloughed were out of work for 2 to 6 months. 20 % returned back to their jobs in 1-2 months. 23 % were home less than two weeks.

Managers, professionals, technicians and associate professionals, crafts and related trades workers as well as plant and machine operators and assemblers were most commonly only furloughed for less than 2 weeks. 

Clerical support workers, service and sales professionals, and other workers were often furloughed 2-6 months. 

Butchers, fishmongers, and related food preparers had the most furlough days. They had an average of 113 furlough days. 

A few words about occupations that suffered from unemployment the most in 2020

121 000 became unemployed at least once in 2020. Altogether, there were about 151 000 individual unemployment periods in Finland. 

Of all occupational groups, those that fall under the category “elementary occupations” suffered from unemployment the most in 2020. 9 % of them were unemployed during last year. This group includes such occupations as cleaners, agricultural and forestry workers, and food preparation assistants.

Other hard-hit occupational groups were service and sales workers. 7.6 % of them were unemployed at some point in 2020. So were 5 % of crafts and related trades workers. 

Of individual occupations, a few stand out. For example, 28 % of travel guides were unemployed. So were 27.5 % of teacher’s aides, 26.6 % children’s club leaders, and 23.6 % kindergarten assistants. 

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