The working-age population grouped in a new way – major differences between groups and wellbeing service counties in work participation

Health-related factors account for only a part of the differences in working-age population’s work participation, according to a recent study. The data available in the Work-Life Knowledge service offers new insight into the work participation of the working-age population at national and wellbeing services county levels. Group-specific and regional special characteristics provide resources for planning actions for increasing work participation.
Henkilökuva Mikko Henriksson
Mikko Henriksson
Matti Joensuu
Matti Joensuu

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health media release 28 February 2024

Work participation is not defined only by health-related limitations or incapacity for work, according to a Finnish Institute of Occupational Health study.  

“The working-age population is typically viewed by age group or diagnosis group and from the perspective of incapacity for work. A wider perspective directs the focus on work ability and work potential instead. There is a demand for a more diverse perspective if the aim is to increase work participation,” says Senior Specialist Mikko Henriksson from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.  

The study extensively reviewed factors related to work ability available in national registers, such as health, demographic factors, education, economic status and social factors. A total 14 groups were formed based on these factors. The research material describes the situation in 2021.

The average number of employment months for all groups is 8.7 per year. There is considerable variation between the average number of employment months of different groups. The group titled “Middle aged people with high education and a family, good health” had the most employment months (11.5).  The lowest number of employment months was found in the group titled “Nearly retirement aged people with high or medium education living in a relationship, poor health” (6.0).  

Regional comparison helps to plan actions for increasing work participation

The groups with different degrees of work ability also have different levels of work participation in different regions. The study shows that there are wellbeing services county-specific differences of several months in work participation.  

For example, the people in the group titled “Over middle aged people with low education living alone, fairly good health” have the most employment months if they lived in Åland (about 7.9). People living in the North Karelia wellbeing services county have the lowest number of employment months in this group (about 5.3).  

“Regional differences may explain the situation in the labour market, but also the service system. The results offer an overview of certain regions and allow for planning how the work participation of various working-age population groups can be improved”, says Chief Researcher Matti Joensuu from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.  

The results published in the Work-Life Knowledge service (link) can be viewed nationally and compared by wellbeing services county.  

In the future, the study group aims to include workplace-specific factors in the grouping, such as resources, job demands and social relationships, which are omitted from the national registers of individuals.  

“Work participation is affected by individual, workplace-specific and societal factors. It is important to understand work participation from all viewpoints,” Matti Joensuu points out.  

“The work ability management of workplaces can affect how each individual can participate in work in spite of temporary or permanent health-related limitations,” says Joensuu.  

Study the data in the Work-Life Knowledge service  

The study is part of the Work Ability Programme Extension project

  • Individual variables related to work ability and their relevance to work participation were reviewed in the study. The groups were formed with the means of a data-based grouping method.
  • The study used the register data set titled “The state of work ability in Finland”, in which the data concerning the working-age population from various national registers are combined at an individual level.
  • The purpose of the study is to provide population-level data about work ability and work participation to support decision-making processes.
  • The study was carried out as part of the Work Ability Programme Extension project, which aims to increase employment and the level of competence as part of Finland’s Sustainable Growth Programme.  

Additional information

  • Senior Specialist Mikko Henriksson, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, mikko.henriksson [at], tel. +358 (0)50 501 0425
  • Chief Researcher Matti Joensuu, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, matti.joensuu [at], tel. +358 (0)43 825 2075

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