Time of Opportunities

Uncovering new realities in the working world.
Esa Sorila, Tree Harvester Operator, was interviewed for the artificial intelligence theme . Photo: Jaakko Lukumaa

The Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) launched its four-year Time of Opportunities project in 2016 with a view to developing the work of the future, improving the daily lives of employees, and making the world of work more compassionate and equitable.

The Time of Opportunities (Mahdollisuuksien aika in Finnish) project is motivated by three forces of change affecting the world of work and the daily lives of workers:

  • digitalisation,
  • globalisation, and
  • climate change and depletion of natural resources.

The project is co-ordinated by SAK Head of R&D Juha Antila.

Two themes per year

The Time of Opportunities project has focused on two main themes or phenomena each year. The themes in 2017 were new adult education and employee empowerment in the platform economy.

Spring 2018 the project examined the impact of artificial intelligence on quality of life at work and employee autonomy. Another theme of the project in 2018 was sources of income in gig economy. In 2019 the themes covered immigration and climate change.

SAK is collaborating with many prominent stakeholders on these themes. Partners to date have included the Finnish Innovation Fund (Sitra), the Sovelto training and consulting firm, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and the Mikko Kesä research and expert firm.

The findings on each theme were presented to the Delegate Council of SAK at its biannual meetings in May-June and in November, and also circulated through social media channels and the SAK online service.

Climate policy (autumn 2019)

Climate policy and its importance to employment was a theme of SAK’s Time of Opportunities project in autumn 2019. We published studies examining the impact of climate change on the world of work and the status of employees in Finland and other countries.

The report “A Fair Climate Policy for Workers – Implementing a just transition in various European countries and Canada” aims to provide information to substantiate the implementation and preparation of Finland’s climate policy and to promote its social fairness.

The report also sets out some credible concrete examples in which a just transition for workers has already been implemented in European countries, specifically the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Scotland. It also provides concise presentations of conditions of Nordic peers in Sweden and Norway, and it also examines the example of Canada, where climate policy has been prepared and implemented in a way that is exceptionally fair and socially inclusive.

Read the report A Fair Climate Policy for Workers – Implementing a just transition in various European countries and Canada.

A report published in January 2020 suggests that climate change and efforts to mitigate it are unlikely to reduce the total volume of labour in Finland if climate action is implemented in a managed way. Stricter emission reduction targets nevertheless remain a cause for concern in terms of maintaining competitiveness and jobs in many sectors. Transfers of work between and within sectors will heighten the need to update employee skills.

These assessments are based on interviews with specialists from 13 unions in various industries.

Read more about the SAK study on the impact of climate action on work and the status of employees.

Members of SAK-affiliated trade unions think climate change is a serious problem that unions should be tackling actively. This is the key finding of a survey of union members aged between 20 and 40 years conducted by the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK).

69 per cent of SAK-affiliated trade union members aged between 20 and 40 years would retrain for a new career if this was required in order to tackle the problem of climate change. Willingness to switch occupations is greatest in public and private services and among women.

Read more about the SAK survey of union members

Impact of immigration on the world of work (spring 2019)

In spring 2019, SAK investigated the status of immigrants at work and the impact of immigration on the world of work, including direct interviews with employees, shop stewards and employer representatives at multicultural workplaces. The study shows that migrant workers in Finland enjoy little support from employers when studying the local language, even though misunderstandings due to the language barrier cause the most problems at multicultural workplaces.

In addition to this interview study, SAK investigated the topic through a comparative international review, a panel of elected employee representatives, and a survey of trade union members. Reports of this work will be completed during spring 2019.

An article on the interview study and a checklist for multicultural organisations (in English)
Other materials on the theme (in Finnish)

Incomes of workers in the gig economy (autumn 2018)

In in autumn 2018, SAK commissioned a study on the problems of reconciling the income and social security of workers in the gig economy. The Little work, big bother ("Vajaalla työllä, valtavalla vaivalla" in Finnish) study conducted by employment researcher Mikko Kesä indicates that work in the gig economy is often scarce in terms of working time and earnings, with workers instead spending a great deal of time looking for work, harmonising unemployment benefits and solving various problems.

Concern to ensure an adequate livelihood for workers in the gig economy. was one reason for proposing the SAK motivating employment security scheme.

An article on SAK motivating employment security scheme and the study of casual worker incomes (in English)
Other materials on the theme (in Finnish)

Impact of artificial intelligence on quality of life at work and employee autonomy (spring 2018)

Photo: Jaakko Lukumaa

SAK examined the effects of deploying artificial intelligence and other advanced technology on the work of employees in spring 2018. Surveys carried out under the theme suggest that deploying new technology is easier at workplaces with good working conditions. Furthermore, new technology does not seem to reduce working duties significantly in Finland.

The working conditions survey: How is new technology changing the work of employees? (in English)
Article on the artificial intelligence theme (in English)
Other materials on the theme (in Finnish)

Employee empowerment in the platform economy (autumn 2017)

Photo: Riitta Juntunen

Employee empowerment in a platform economy was the theme of the Time of Opportunities project in autumn 2017. Under the theme, SAK sought to investigate the working experiences of people primarily engaged in casual work through online platforms, and to find out what kind of experiences and aspirations they have in relation to the world of work and their expectations of trade unions.

A further perspective was the willingness of the trade union movement to defend the interests of platform economy workers. SAK studied the types of alternative solutions offered by the Finnish and international trade union movement to such problems, and whether the international trade union movement could provide any format enabling trade unions to defend the interests of platform economy workers, or existing solutions that would help these workers appreciate the need for unions.

Final report of the platform economy theme: Does the worker have a say in the platform economy? (in English)
Article on the theme (in English)
Other materials on the theme (in Finnish)

New adult education (spring 2017)

Photo: Patrik Lindström

In the field of adult education, SAK was investigating such aspects as incentives and obstacles to vocational retraining of mature students, low threshold studying options to improve work-related digital skills, and the effects of education on employment and joblessness. The findings were published in three Finnish language reports, in news items and in personal biographies and video materials describing the experiences of adults who change occupation.

Materials on the new adult education theme (in Finnish)

Get involved!

You can also participate in the Time of Opportunities project by joining its Facebook group and taking part in discussions on social media.