During a sorrowful week, the blue-black government decided on several cuts to the benefits of the poorest. Orpo’s government cuts, as a whole, mean that there is no cake to be shared – it has already been divided. At the same time, Orpo’s government cuts signify the end of the welfare state in Finland.
It’s good to recap the deteriorations that Orpo’s government pushed through the parliament against the will of the people. First, the parliament approved the government’s majority cuts to housing allowance and livelihood support. After that, the government approved the indexing brakes on unemployment benefits and cuts to child supplements. This means that an increasing number of families with children fall into poverty and are permanently forced onto livelihood support. The combined effect of benefit cuts and indexing brakes is enormous, and families with children may earn even a few hundred less per month, despite working as much as before. This is tremendously unfair and a significant issue of justice. Additionally, the cuts increase the thresholds for part-time work.
More and more unemployed people are accumulating debt and becoming marginalized. With such actions, Finland will not be lifted, but instead, there will be less skilled labor available and more people declared unfit for work for long periods. If the government had economic wisdom, they would understand that in the long run, cuts to the poorest mean decreased income and increased expenses. Austerity policy is neither scientifically nor humanely justified, but it is still implemented. It is a harmful ideology aimed at advancing the basic principles of neoliberalism, seeking to ensure that fewer and fewer people own more, and the role of the state is small. The ones paying the price are the very poorest.
Oh, and that’s not all. In addition to now having pushed through shocking cuts to the low-income population, the government decided to raise the caps on medication and healthcare fees and increase customer charges. At the same time, it is known that low-income individuals underutilize healthcare, meaning ailments are treated only when they have progressed further. This is costly for the state, but it is also extremely costly in human terms. While the government raises fees for the poorest, it allocates hundreds of millions to the private sector and cuts billions from social and healthcare. Tax cuts are targeted at the well-off, and a wealthy person may get up to €2,000 more per year than before. The poor may lose €3,000 – €4,000 per year, and this doesn’t even account for the impact of inflation or increased caps.
If this doesn’t sound like the end of the welfare state, then lets go on and bring more juicy details to the table.
In addition to direct cuts, massive deteriorations are coming to the workplace
Among other splendid reforms by Orpo’s government is the increase in local bargaining, meaning a reduction in wages. It is already known that local bargaining is widely possible in workplaces. In the model promoted by Orpo, it is purely about being able to lower wages and unilaterally weaken working conditions. Unfortunately, the True Finns also encourage this development, strongly indicating that the party is not on the side of the working class (of course, other actions by the government underscore this).
Regarding earnings-related unemployment benefits, the government is extending the duration of the employment condition to 12 months, meaning that, for example, individuals working as temporary teachers for an academic year will no longer receive earnings-related benefits in the summer but will fall onto Kela’s unemployment benefits. The amount is not staggering, even though the government has painted a picture of lavish benefits. There will also be staggered cuts to earnings-related benefits: first, the support drops to 80% after 2 months, and later the support is cut further. For those already with low incomes, this means a quick fall onto basic livelihood support and passivity, which does not improve employment in any way or reduce state benefit expenses.
Earnings-related benefits are also being converted into euros, meaning that, to qualify for earnings-related benefits, the employment condition is not fulfilled based on hours worked but on earned money. This reform is actually incredibly cruel because it could mean that one worker does 110 hours of work per month to barely meet the required amount, while a slightly better-off individual can work 20 hours a month to qualify for earnings-related benefits.
The government is also enabling dismissal without any particular reason as part of the local bargaining package, and fixed-term contracts can now be concluded for a year without a specific reason. This means that few will be able to acquire housing in the future, and ownership will be concentrated even more. Banks won’t grant loans if you’re on a fixed-term contract.
More cuts are being planned, and, for example, Riikka Purra suggested raising the value-added tax on food. Even now, many are already in breadlines, but when empathy is absent from politics, the discourse becomes like this. Still, the state is accumulating debt by 14.4 billion euros per year. The debt rally continues, as Orpo would say.
Orpo’s government cuts and other measures ensure that the welfare state will soon be no more
Orpo’s government cuts and index freezes are the final seal on the fact that Finland is no longer a welfare state. It is not far from the point where Finland is no longer a constitutional or democratic state either, as so many reforms seek to silence those with different opinions and disregard the constitution or international agreements.
It is also worth noting that right-wing parties have introduced new language into the media discussion – we no longer even talk about the welfare state, but the “welfare society.” The role of the state is being reduced, while more private actors are being pushed into the market. The very poorest are demonized, and the unemployed are called parasites.
The government did not rise to power by telling about these kinds of cuts. The majority of the people oppose them. The government does not care. The government also chose experts who align with its agenda to provide opinions on the constitutionality of the reforms and cleared negative impacts from public reports.
Well, if people lack critical thinking and empathy, the result is exactly like this. One can only shake one’s head. Building the welfare state was the result of long work; now, the people are willingly letting it be dismantled.