The largest business sector in Finland, commerce, is looking for ways to create more jobs. The tasks in the sector are undergoing rapid change, and so are the skills needed. The future programme for the service sectors, under preparation at the Finnish Commerce Federation, seeks to pave the way for a labour market reformation. One of the proposals that the commerce sector is putting forward is the introduction of a training employment model that targets particularly young people and immigrants in the risk of social exclusion and has the goal of lowering the employment threshold.

“Commerce wants to create jobs It is the lifeblood of the sector and a vital question for the whole of society,” commented Taavi Heikkilä, Chair of the Finnish Commerce Federation and CEO, at the closing ceremony of a commerce sector event, organised at the Marina Congress Center in Helsinki, on 5 September.

Commerce is the largest business sector in Finland and the engine of the whole services sector, employing over 290,000 wage earners and entrepreneurs. There is almost an equal number of men and women employed in the sector. Tasks range from demanding specialist responsibilities to assistive tasks, and the sector employees over 10,000 salaried employees.

Heikkilä wants to emphasise the exceptionally knowledge-intensive nature of the sector, which will continue to grow in importance with the breakthrough of digitalisation. “In the future, digital competence will be an important part of nearly all jobs in the commerce sector. An increasing number of professionals will be needed, for example, to process big data masses, such as customer data,” he explained.

Training employment model to promote employment

The government recently presented new measures to cut youth unemployment and social exclusion. The commerce sector considers this policy definition to be of vital importance and wants to be a part of the effort.

“One of the proposals that we have put forward at an earlier date is the introduction of a training employment model with the goal of lowering the employment threshold for young people and immigrants in the risk of social exclusion in particular. The commerce sector has great potential for employment, and a high employment rate is the best remedy for the sustainability gap and promotes social stability,” Taavi Heikkilä commented.

The training employment model is a more lightweight employment arrangement than an apprenticeship. It is an on-the-job learning method for gaining a profession. At first, the pay is lower than that of the collective labour agreement because the employees need to be supervised and guided in their tasks, and often need help with their working life skills too. In a year’s time, however, the young employee will learn the ropes of the profession and gain qualifications for the job.

“In our opinion, several measures are needed in order to engage young people who face the risk of social exclusion in working life. Commerce wants to be involved in the development of these measures,” Heikkilä continued.

The future programme of the services sector provides policy definitions for labour market development

The Chairman of the Board of the Finnish Commerce Federation expresses the wish that the commerce sector and trade unions could go over the demands of competitive strength in commerce and the economic life this autumn season: “This is not about just one round of negotiations: you need to have long-term insight for the future goals and start accomplishing them. It is in all of our best interests that the commerce sector does as well as possible in Finland, creates jobs in Finland and pays taxes in Finland,” Taavi Heikkilä pointed out.

Pressure for new types of agreements arises from international competition, the digital revolution and the various needs of businesses. Recruiting professionals is increasingly challenging in many sectors, and in commerce, in particular. It takes longer and longer to fill open positions, and it can be hard to find the required expertise. The boundaries between professions and sectors are blurring, and this puts pressure on the current collective labour agreements: is there flexibility in the agreements or will the positions begin to evolve outside the scope of the agreements, Heikkilä wonders.

“We are currently putting together the future programme for the commerce and services sectors which will be completed in the beginning of next year. We hope that it will spark more discussion with the trade unions and employees about the future of commerce and services.”

Heikkilä emphasised that an unprejudiced and bold approach is needed for this kind of a project from all sides. “Instead of rigid regulations, we are looking for positive solutions that will provide more opportunities. The basic idea should be that all work is important. The new solutions must create new opportunities for work, not limit them.

Further information:

  • Taavi Heikkilä, Chairman of the Board, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)10 768 0200
  • Juhani Pekkala, Managing Director, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel. +358 (0)400 419 560, juhani.pekkala(at)
  • Anna Lavikkala, Labour Market Director, Finnish Commerce Federation, tel.: +358 (0)400 406 088,