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Helsinki region businesses already in fear of labour shortage

Production peak in area leads to more and more open jobs

Helsinki region businesses already in fear of labour shortage
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Companies in the Greater Helsinki area are preparing themselves for possibly an even worse labour shortage than that of the wild "casino-economy years" of the overheated late 1980s. "In the coming years our own population base will prove inadequate, and we will need more and more additional workforce from abroad", predicts Heikki J. Perälä, managing director of the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce.
      According to the Helsinki Region Chamber of Commerce activity report published on Monday, production in the capital area grew by 5.5 per cent last year, one percentage point above the national average. "The growth was last this vigorous in 2000", Perälä states.
Industry, in particular, has experienced a noticeable boom in the Helsinki area: the growth in real terms during the last quarter of 2006 was no less than 12 per cent higher than the year before. Even on the commerce front, sales grew by seven per cent.
      The employment situation in the southern province of Uusimaa is the best in fifteen years. "In January, the area’s labour exchange offices were informed of a quarter more open positions than a year ago. At the same time unemployment declined by 12 per cent”, explains head of research Jaakko Pesola from the Uusimaa Employment and Economic Development Centre (TE Centre).
      In Helsinki the situation is even better: at the beginning of the year, there were 12,392 new jobs available, which translates to an increase of a third compared to 12 months earlier.
Of all the new jobs in Finland, no less than 41.3 percent were reported within the administrative area of the Uusimaa TE Centre.
      According to Perälä, the Helsinki area has thus reclaimed its status as the economic engine in the country. But there is still room for improvement before today’s unemployment figure of 6.5 per cent is even close to the record low, just barely above two per cent, in the late 1980s.
      Perälä claims that it will not take long before a major labour shortage in the area becomes a reality. Already there are unfilled positions, for example, in the cleaning sector as well as some other low-income fields. Also local industries are suffering from a shortage of professionals in some narrow, highly-specialised fields. "The service, commerce, and construction branches will begin to experience a lack of workforce within the next few years", Perälä forecasts.
      According to Perälä, to assist the low-income fields, a new housing policy is needed to secure affordable accommodation for new workers.
The greatest hindrance to recruiting more foreigners is their lack of language proficiency.
      "The education should be carried out in cooperation with the employment authorities. Industrial safety requirements alone call for adequate knowledge of the Finnish language", says managing director Paavo Härö from the SOL Palvelut cleaning firm. Even at present, SOL has 30 to 40 unfilled positions available for cleaning staff.

Helsingin Sanomat

  6.3.2007 - TODAY
 Helsinki region businesses already in fear of labour shortage

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