The trade union confederations SAK and STTK have published their own programme for economic growth. "High salaries are not the reason for problems in the Finnish economy, there are other reasons behind it", is how SAK president Lauri Lyly views the situation.

Lyly and STTK president Mikko Mäenpää see the real problems afflicting the Finnish economy lie in the too low value of added production. The key sectors of our economy, namely the paper and electronics industry have concentrated far too much and for far too long in bulk products.

The solutions offered by the confederations are aimed at guaranteeing a high level of education, building and maintenance of a working infrastructure and supporting new innovations.

Lyly and Mäenpää are adamant that economic growth can only be reached when both the quality of working life and productivity are intertwined and developed simultaneously. Growth should revolve around the participation of the whole population, not just the top performer. To reach growth, productivity has to be raised in all fields of production, not only in the trendy sectors or in start-ups.

The practical measures proposed by the confederations are many and varied. And unquestionably, they see the key to success as being tied up with Finland’s high level of education and know-how. Adults should be afforded better opportunities to upgrade their professional skills. Vocational education should become more flexible and closer to actual working life. Budget cuts should not affect education.

As part of innovation policy goal there is the need for more economic diversity. At least 4 per cent of GDP should be devoted to research and development. Development of the quality of working life is also an important part of innovation policy as it supports productivity.

"Low taxation is not the key to competitiveness", says Mikko Mäenpää. Small and medium income tax could be lowered but companies should pay their fair share of taxes. The era of state-ownership in the economy is not over, it is necessary to accumulate capital, Mäenpää adds.

Finland does have many strengths, the programme says. In the global surveys of competitiveness Finland often comes out as one of the top countries. The public sector works well and the rule of law is firmly established. Finland has an ability to come to quick decisions, when needed. "If we could just remove some friction, Finland would work better", Lauri Lyly says.

Lauri Lyly offers co-operation to the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, believing that it could agree with many of the proposals. "I hope we can find common standpoints with EK. The important thing is growth. If we have joint opinions it will be easier to speak to the government", Mikko Mäenpää says.

Heikki Jokinen