Monthlong Break for Finnish PM Shows Focus on Work-Life Balance
(Bloomberg) -- Fresh from a four-week summer holiday, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin says she wants to improve the lot of workers of the world.
Marin, 35, who oversees a Nordic nation of 5.5 million people ranked as the happiest in the world, is known for advocating equality and fairness. There’s much more to be done to make working life more equitable, secure and enjoyable, she said.
She wants to push for shorter hours for employees as productivity improves, better protection for gig workers and fair employment rules to stop work creeping into people’s free time.
“We need to change the world to improve people’s wellbeing and happiness,” she said in an interview at her seaside residence in Helsinki on Wednesday. Shorter hours would mean “people would have more time for their families and loved ones, and their hobbies and life.”
Marin, who was briefly the world’s youngest head of government when she took power in December 2019, was famously seen advocating a four-day work week in the first weeks of her tenure. That’s not on her five-party coalition’s agenda, she acknowledges, but says it’s “an important question for the future.”
“When productivity improves, ordinary workers should share in the benefits. It shouldn’t just go line the owners’ pockets,” the Social Democrat leader says. “One way to share productivity gains would be to cut working hours while keeping wages unchanged.”
Finns already work some of the shortest hours in the European Union, though those in full-time employment have seen little change in their hours in recent years.
The platform economy, with gig workers like Uber and food delivery drivers, is a return “to a hundred years ago, to a time when many people worked independently rather than in the employment of one company,” she said. To fix the problems of low pay and lack of job security, the “key is to always try to protect the weaker party and help strengthen their standing.”
Regarding her extended summer holiday, Marin credits her longest break in years to a well-functioning government where no one is indispensable, allowing her to spend time with family and friends, take walks and visit amusement parks and the zoo with her three-year-old daughter Emma.
“Being able to take four weeks off shows that we have a government that operates collectively,” she said. “The government wasn’t on holiday. We’ve arranged deputies for all ministers, including the prime minister.”
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