Broad longitudinal study on working poor in Finland
A research project led by Professor Jakonen is to examine the labour market status, social benefits, and everyday lives of Finland's working poor. With the help of extensive statistical data, the researchers will examine how the phenomenon in Finland has changed from the 1980s to the present day, and who are affected by it. No longitudinal studies on the working poor have been made before that would be as comprehensive.
“From the statistical data we have already noticed that immigrants have non-typical employment at double the rate as those in the general population.”
The part-time character of employment applies especially to fields where women are in the majority. More than 400,000 people work part time in Finland, and two thirds of them are women.
“Women comprise 86 percent of all single parents. Especially in areas with high housing costs, a single parent who is raising two children, and who works for low pay, can be at risk of poverty.”
In addition to the statistical data, researchers have access to material collected in 2015 and 2021 with the accounts of more than 400 who consider themselves to be working poor. In the spring of 2023 interview material was also collected from entrepreneurs and in the autumn of 2022, from immigrants.
“We have asked people about their everyday lives, social services, diet, health, social relations, and family relations. The data is open to many types of analysis.”
Now the research group is collecting policy material for the study.
“We are looking at the 2000s to see where reports, government programmes, and decisions on social and public policy have steered labour markets and social services, and what kinds of developments have occurred. For example, governments have sometimes raised the exempt amount of the general housing allowance and have reduced it at other times. All of this can affect how easily social services and work can be combined.”
The status of those on intermittent employment can be improved through legislation
Many who live in in-work poverty hold down multiple jobs to get by. In the United States, working at more than one paid job became increasingly common already in the 1980s.
“People certainly have solutions to their situations, but sometimes they can be excruciatingly difficult. Many of those who participated in our research have different ways of cutting their food costs by frequently buying products with red discount tags (indicating an approaching sell-by date), and by queueing up for free food distribution.”
The number of people using food aid has grown immensely in the past ten years. More than 200,000 Finns avail themselves of food assistance each year.
“The proportion of people receiving food assistance who are employed has also increased. One could ask about the cost incurred by families and households whose members hold multiple low-paid jobs that do not bring much of an income. Such a life is quite demanding.”
As the phenomenon is created by a global transition in employment, Professor Jakonen does not believe that a return to mainly full-time long-term jobs is likely to happen any time soon.
“But if we think that something is broken on the labour market from the employee's point of view, it could be affected by regulation. Laws can be used to secure the rights of employees, to promote employment with adequate income, and to help secure fundamental issues such as occupational health and safety, well-being at work, and having adequate breaks. These can help, and they improve the status of employees, and they are not irrelevant questions.”
Professor of Social and Public Policy, University of Eastern Finland 1 November 2023–
Doctor of Social Sciences, University of Jyväskylä 2013
Licenciate of Social Sciences, University of Jyväskylä 2009
Master of Social Sciences (political science), Master of Social Sciences (philosophy) University of Jyväskylä 2006
Docent, Social and Public Policy, University of Eastern Finland, 2017
University lecturer in social and public policy, University of Jyväskylä 2019–2023
Fixed-term positions as an Assistant, University Teacher, and University Lecturer in political science and cultural policy 2007-–2019
Post-Doc researcher TEKES (Business Finland) HYVE 2020 project 2014–2015
Doctoral researcher in political science, Academy of Finland project The Concept of World Politics 2010–2011
More than ten research visits to different universities in France, the U.K., and China