HELSINKI (Reuters) – Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin called for cutting the current eight-hour working day in her keynote speech to her Social Democratic Party on Monday, arguing shorter hours could be offset by increased productivity.
Marin, who floated the idea of a six-hour day before becoming prime minister, would need to convince the other four parties in her coalition to push through a reduction in the working day amid rising unemployment due to COVID-19.
“We need to create a clear vision and concrete steps as to how Finland can proceed towards shorter working hours and Finnish employees towards better working life,” the 34-year-old leader told her party members, who had elected her chairwoman of the Social Democrats on Sunday.
Marin, one the world’s youngest serving prime ministers, has led Finland’s centre-left government since December 2019, after an ally in the coalition forced her predecessor Antti Rinne to resign.
Together with Rinne, who continued to chair the party until Sunday, Marin has steered the government to the left, raising pensions and cancelling some of the previous government’s spending cuts.
Earlier on Monday, her party conference rejected a proposal to experiment with a six-hour working day, adopting instead the objective of shortening hours or introducing more flexibility into working life.
Marin said shorter working hours could become possible by increasing productivity and were not in conflict with strong public finances or the government’s goal of lifting Finland’s employment rate from the current 73.7% to at least 75%.
“The wealth brought about by the increase in labour productivity has to be split not only between owners and investors but also to ordinary employees,” she said.
Marin reiterated the government’s plans to invest in education and its goal of making Finland carbon neutral by 2035, calling for green investments to boost the economy.
(Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Alex Richardson)