Alcohol results in some two million days of absence from work every year in Finland. The harm caused by alcohol abuse is estimated at between 4 and 6.5 billion euro a year. Alcohol also contributes to a lot of dangerous situations which occur at work.
The three trade union federations Akava, SAK and STTK support the national campaign Tipaton tammikuu (Not a drop in January). It has a clear message: to ask citizens to abstain from drinking alcohol in January.
Quite many do follow the appeal. According to the surveys of those Finns who do drink alcohol 22 per cent joined up to the campaign last year. People below 25 years of age were more eager to participate than those from the older generation set.
– With Not a drop in January it is possible to improve personal health, and any reduction in the consumption of alcohol will also have a more profound and positive impact on working life, the three trade union confederations stress.
– Alcohol use comes at a heavy cost. Apart from the human harm we have to take into account the debilitating effect of sick leave, disability pensions, accidents, longer unemployment periods and lower productivity”, says Riitta Työläjärvi, the Senior Adviser, Social and Health Policy from STTK. Alcohol is also the most common reason for death among Finns of a working life age.
January without alcohol affords us a good opportunity to talk about alcohol and the consequences it can have on our places of work, Työläjärvi says.
Problems should be made visible
– In any event it is well to remember that prevention of health problems caused by excessive alcohol use continues to be part of our normal occupational health care and it should be done all round the year, says lawyer Paula Ilveskivi from Akava.
Expert doctor Kari Haring from SAK estimates that alcohol-related disability pensions may result in a major economic loss for an employee.
– An employee may end up with a disability pension at the age of 53 instead of working until 63 years. When salary turns to pension, this would mean in 11 years an income loss of 200 000 euro, Haring calculates. The figure is based on the average salary in Finland.
Problems caused by alcohol are still part of everyday life in working places, Haring says. These problems may partly be visible, but can also go unnoticed – or there may even be an unwillingness to recognise the problems.
– It would be good to consider and reflect, within the workplace, on the question of how we treat alcohol and how to use it when organising our own occasions. However, it should be said that nowadays only very few working places accept major alcohol use, Haring says.
The Not a drop in January campaign has been organised annually since 2004. The initiator is EHYT, a preventive substance abuse work organisation set up to promote healthy ways of life.