The state of work ability in Finland

“The state of work ability in Finland – population sample-based statistical information on health and work ability of Finns” project creates comprehensive data which extensively utilizes various register sources and enables the monitoring of register data in a long-term and broad sample of the entire working population.




The aim of the study is to provide information on the work ability and careers of Finns, their development and the factors that affect development paths. The research project collects extensive data on the Finnish working-age population from the perspectives of social security, the labour market, income and health. 

With the extensive register data collected in the research project, we can examine work ability forecasts, labour market transitions and the expected working years for those with partial work ability or chronic diseases. In addition, we can investigate factors that can influence the prognosis of work ability and working careers. 

Factors affecting the development of incapacity for work at the population level likely include at least changes in the gender and age structure of employees, socio-economic structure, neighbourhood, morbidity, lifestyle, working conditions and workplaces, labour market situation and social security, as well as changes in legislation. In this data, many of these factors affecting the development of work ability can be taken into account and the development paths of incapacity for work can be distinguished according to many different factors. 

Exclusion from the labour market, marginalization and unemployment are also major problems for society, and the younger those affected are, the more so. The register data can be used to investigate the connections of problems related to well-being and events describing marginalization with working careers and work ability in young people. 

Data and methods

The population sample for which the register data was collected is a 90% random sample of persons permanently residing in Finland who were aged 18 to 68 on 31 December 2010. In addition, a 90% random sample was collected of the persons coming of age (turning 18) in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, or persons aged 18 or over who immigrated to Finland in these years. 

We have cross-referenced the registers of various controllers. These registers included the pension and earnings registers of the Finnish Centre for Pensions, the income support, birth, cancer and National Hospital Discharge registers of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, the work-related diseases register of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, the population, cause of death, degree, professional and migration register of Statistics Finland and the employee-employer data of FLEED. In addition, we plan to request data from the Kela benefit register, the register of the Legal Register Centre and the register of Suomen Asiakastieto Oy. The research team does not use personally identifiable data. The results are reported at group level and in sufficiently large groups so that individuals cannot be identified even indirectly (by combining data).

Results and impact

Incapacity for work causes considerable costs to society and workplaces, as well as loss of earnings for individuals. In Finland, however, there is a lack of data on incapacity for work and its development that would be representative of the entire population. 

Statistics Finland, Kela, the Finnish Centre for Pensions and other data controllers maintain and publish their own statistics, but more detailed breakdowns of, for example, the health and work ability of different population and occupational groups and the factors affecting them are available only to a limited extent. 

Research is important because there is a lack of knowledge about the underlying factors of incapacity for work and the factors that predict involvement in work life and society. Extending working careers and promoting work ability at all stages of careers is especially important as the population ages and the share of the employed population diminishes. Currently, there is no information available on the development and state of work ability that can be generalized to the entire population of Finland, except at most by gender or by diagnosis group. 

In this study, the state and development trends of work ability can be examined in more detail according to individual factors, illnesses, and also according to the characteristics of the employer. When risk factors and particularly high-risk individuals and groups can be identified, preventive and corrective measures can be properly targeted and, where necessary, support measures can be differentiated. 

The results will help to identify critical areas and groups at risk that can be affected in order to prevent early career disruptions and to reduce costs to society and human suffering. With the new information emerging from the study, it will be possible to better address shortcomings in, for example, workplaces and health care, and the information can also be used in political decision-making and to meet, for example, the Government Programme's objectives on extending working careers. In addition, decision-makers will be informed of the factors to which resources should be directed. 

Our experts

Jenni Ervasti

Jenni Ervasti

Jenni.Ervasti [at]
+358 30 474 2806


Finnish Institute of Occupational Health