Experiences of the working population are divided in Finland

The Working Finland study highlights how experiences among the working population diverge in many ways and lead to different outcomes in well-being at work. There are differences between entrepreneurs and employees as well as between white-collar employees and blue-collar employees. Sedentary work and overlong work weeks are emphasized among upper white-collar employees, while the physical nature of work is a key feature of blue-collar work.
Henkilökuva Ari Väänänen
Ari Väänänen
Minna Toivanen
Minna Toivanen

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 25 March 2024

The nature of work divides the working population in Finland. Overlapping work tasks and information overload are twice as common among upper white-collar employees compared with blue-collar employees. On the other hand, physical stress factors, such as lifting and carrying, concern one in three blue-collar employees but only approximately one per cent of upper white-collar employees.

Most upper white-collar employees sit for more than half of their working time and their work does not include physically taxing tasks. Instead, employees in blue-collar jobs move more: nearly two out of three either stand or walk for over half of their working time.

The socioeconomic background, working conditions and well-being of the working population are closely linked together. Nine out of ten upper white-collar employees believe their health will allow them to work until old-age pension. Two out of three people in blue-collar jobs estimated that this was the case for them.  

Gender-based division of jobs and working conditions is evident in the Finnish labour market in the 2020s. Women continue to work a lot in lower white-collar positions, represent a clear majority of municipal sector employees and work less frequently as supervisors compared to men. On the other hand, men mostly work in the private sector and in blue-collar jobs. This division is reflected on the conditions and workplaces that Finnish men and women work in. 

Unpredictability causes stress at work

The Working Finland report by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health provides an extensive overview of Finns’ working conditions, work ability, well-being at work and use of occupational health services as well as differences in work life between population groups. The data was collected in 2022–2023 as part of the Healthy Finland survey by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. 

“The dataset depicts work, well-being at work and work ability after the COVID-19 pandemic, in the context of increased climate awareness, international instability and a tendency towards polarization. It describes a work life in which most of the working population is born between the mid-1950s and early 2000s,” says Research Professor Ari Väänänen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. 

“The theme of surprising changes was highlighted in the results. Unpredictable changes were reported as the most significant work-related threat. Up to 40 per cent of the working population had experience of these, with them being most common among entrepreneurs and women working in the municipal sector,” says Väänänen.

Weekly working time mostly in check, but one in five overwork

Out of the working population, 40 per cent are engaged in regular daily work and approximately 30 per cent have flexible working hours. A total of 17 per cent do shift work or regular evening or night work.

One in five work more than half of their working time remotely, whereas for 43 per cent of the working population remote work is not possible at all. A positive observation was that weekly hours remain most reasonable, regardless of the share of remote work.

The average weekly working time for the working population is 38.6 hours.

However, slightly more than one in five report working over 40 hours per week. High weekly workloads were especially common in the private sector, in supervisory positions and among upper white-collar employees and entrepreneurs.

Research suggests that special attention should be paid to the one in five who work nearly 50 hours per week. Workplaces should aim to better manage workloads in order to prevent health problems.

Male entrepreneurs are nearly always available 

More than half of the working population estimate that they are usually available for work-related matters also outside of their working time. Being available was more common among men than women.

Being available was most common among entrepreneur men. Of them, up to 88 per cent said that they were usually available for work-related matters even after the working day. Being available was also very common (71%) for female entrepreneurs. Being available was clearly less common among salaried employees and it occurred the least in blue-collar jobs. 

It was very common both for entrepreneurs and employees to have intrusive work-related thoughts in their leisure time.

“Decoupling from work can be challenging if you remain available also in your free time. On the other hand, more than half of entrepreneurs feel that work provides them joy, energy and a good counterbalance for other areas of life,” says Senior Specialist Minna Toivanen from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.

“According to our study, many entrepreneurs do their work very independently, without social support from the workplace. Thus, other social networks, such as family and entrepreneur networks are emphasized in receiving support,” says Toivanen.

About the Working Finland study

For more information, please contact

  • Ari Väänänen, Research Professor, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, ari.vaananen [at] ttl.fi, +35850 511 0530
  • Minna Toivanen, Senior Specialist, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, minna.toivanen [at] ttl.fi, +35843 824 4506
  • The report has a total of 20 authors. For the other contact information, please contact the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media communications: Päivi Lehtomurto, paivi.lehtomurto [at] ttl.fi, +35850 415 6309

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