Finland is not launching four-day working week

HELSINKI (AP) — The Finnish government on Tuesday squelched a story spreading in international media about the Nordic nation’s plans to reduce the average working time for full-time employees to 24 hours a week, or four six-hour days.

Newspapers and news sites in Britain, the United States, India, Pakistan, Russia and Australia were among the outlets that on Monday credited Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin as the person responsible for the shorter work week plan.

But government spokeswoman Paivi Anttikoski said Marin floated the idea of Finland some day adopting either a four-day work week or six-hour work days – not both – months before the 34-year-old became the world’s youngest head of government last December.

Marin “envisioned the idea briefly in a panel discussion last August while she was the minister of transport, and there hasn’t been any recent activity” to push the initiative forward, Anttikoski said.

Neither the agenda of the five-party coalition government Marin leads nor the meeting plans of her Cabinet mention a working hour proposal, the spokeswoman said.

Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin smiling as the new government of Finland pays a complimentary visit to the President of Finland at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, in December 2019. PHOTO: AP

The inaccurate reports are believed to have arisen from a January 2 article published online by New Europe, a Brussels newspaper that mostly covers European Union (EU) affairs.

New Europe’s story said Marin raised the issue of a six hours a day, four-day work week in August but had not said more about it since becoming Prime Minister.

Zoi Didili, the reporter who filed the story, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the translation from original Finnish news sources she relied on had some details wrong, like wrongly claiming that Marin suggested both a four-hour working week and six-hour work day.

New Europe’s story has been revised with a correction, and the publication has been in touch with Marin’s office, Didili said.

“The basis of the story was that we wanted see whether the Finnish prime minister would uphold her earlier views. This time we fell into the trap of not cross-checking this information properly,” Didili said.

“We’ve been very alerted to the fact that so many news outlets reported the story without checking it from original sources,” she added.

WHAT MARIN SAID AND WHEN

Marin was a vice chairwoman of Finland’s ruling Social Democratic Party and minister for transport and communications in the Cabinet of then-Prime Minister Antti Rinne when the Social Democrats held an August 17, 2019 conference in the port town of Turku to mark the party’s 120th anniversary.

Like in other Nordic countries, the Social Democratic movement played an important role in Finland’s industrial history, particularly on seeking to protect employees’ rights and setting working hours.

During a panel discussion, Marin presented various “utopias” she hoped to see became a reality for the nation of 5.5 million people. One was that workers would one day either have four-day work weeks or put in a daily maximum of six hours at their jobs.

A few days later, Marin attempted to back-up her position on Twitter, saying that past reductions in working hours had been beneficial for employees. “We must strive towards increasing work productivity also in the future and make sure that the beneficiary of this is the common person.

“Discussion over reducing working hours should be and must be allowed,” Marin tweeted.