After World War II, Finland’s militant trade unions created one of the world’s strongest welfare states. Today, the country spends more on the welfare state than any other OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) country, at around a quarter of GDP. Finland regularly tops the rankings of the happiest countries in the world and is arguably one of the most successful examples of the social democratic model.
At the heart of the Finnish class compromise is the tradition of social dialogue between unions, employers, and the government, which has led to annual nationwide and sectoral negotiations on wage setting for all union members, tripartite negotiations on new legislative proposals, and the expansion of the welfare state. But this social contract is about to be torn apart by a newly elected right-wing government.
While Finnish politics made international headlines in recent years with a center-left coalition led by five women and headed by the young social democrat Sanna Marin, a radicalized right won a majority in the last parliamentary election in April 2023. As a result, the conservatives, the Christian Democrats, a Swedish minority party, and the far-right Finns Party formed a government. Since then, the coalition has launched the strongest attack on workers’ rights and social security in the history of the Finnish welfare state.
Annika Rönni-Sällinen is president of Finland’s Service Union United (PAM). UNI Director of Communications Daniel Kopp asked her about what the plans mean for the welfare state — and what her union is doing to respond.