Finns regularly vote themselves among the happiest in the world, with a healthy balance between work and home life. But a wave of strikes has exposed a far more complicated reality.

Finland has seen a wave of labor disputes over wage issues and working hours in recent months, which this week appear to be reaching crisis point. In December, ex-Prime Minister Antti Rinne resigned after his government came under pressure from a nationwide postal strike. Industrial action, rare in Finland, then spread to FinnAir, the national airline. Rinne was replaced by Sanna Marin, the youngest head of government in the world at 34, who now faces the same problems.

Finland has tried various strategies over the last few decades, one of the more interesting being the Working Hours Pact in 1996, which gave employees the ability to shift their working hours to suit their lifestyle by starting or ending their responsibilities three hours earlier or later than the standard work hours. But despite such apparent imaginative solutions, Finland is not keen on EU plans to introduce a minimum wage across the bloc. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the move aims to help workers lacking union support. Several EU states have minimum wage laws, while Finland doesn’t have a national minimum wage. Instead, the country has practiced collective bargaining since the 1970s, whereby employers and trade unions regularly negotiate wage agreements on the national and industry-specific level.

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