About four out of every five employees in Finland belong to a trade union. There are several unions organised into three large confederations: the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), the Finnish Confederation of Salaried Employees (STTK), and the Confederation of Unions for Academic Professionals in Finland (AKAVA).
The employers are also highly organised in Finland. In national collective bargaining they are represented by the following organisations:
the Confederation of Finnish Industries
EK, the Commission for Local Authority Employers
(KT), the State Employer's Office (VTML),
the Employer Organisation for Rural Areas
(MTL), and the Church of Finland Negotiating Commission
The main function of trade unions and employers' federations is to negotiate collective agreements for their members. These agreements concern such matters as wages, annual holidays and hours of work. Collective agreements apply to nearly all employees in Finland, regardless of where they live or work. Although these agreements allow some limited scope for local settlement of certain issues, such local agreements require a genuine meeting of minds between the employer and employees, and they may not reduce employee benefits, for example, in wages, annual holidays and hours of work.
The Finnish State authorities work in close association with labour market organisations. This co-operation also includes finding solutions to many social security questions by negotiating on such matters as employee industrial accident insurance, unemployment benefit, pensions and parental leave.
The rights and duties of employees are governed by Finland's labour laws and collective agreements. Organisations of employees and employers generally renegotiate collective agreements every one or two years. These agreements are universally binding: they also apply to employers and employees that are not members of the negotiating organisations. The law also guarantees certain minimum benefits, for example, in annual holidays and hours of
Finland's affluent society fundamentally depends on a comprehensive social insurance system, public services and reasonable income differentials. These income differentials are reduced by a progressive taxation system that generates revenues to pay for income subsidies. The Finns feel that the system as a whole will only work if everyone pays taxes, and so unofficial work is strongly discouraged.
It is almost equally common for both men and women in Finland to work outside the home. At the beginning of
2006 average monthly earnings were EUR
2,275 for women and EUR 2,813 for men. Despite this income gap, the general principle in Finland is equal pay for equal work.
Finnish women are also actively involved in political life. More than one third of the members of the national Parliament are women, and in 2000 the country elected its first woman President.