Niko Simola, the Chairman of the Federation of Salaried Employees, believes that the main responsibility for service provision under the health, social services and regional government reform should remain with the public sector. The private and third sectors should play only a complementary role.
“Public servants make official decisions under so-called ‘liability for a public act’, and that should continue to be the case,” said Simola at a meeting of delegates of the Federation of Salaried Employees held on 23 November in Helsinki.
The Finnish government is implementing a comprehensive social and health services reform while restructuring regional government. Under this reform, the government is seeking to enhance the private sector’s role as a provider of public services within sectors such as social and health care, and labour and employment services.
Commissioned by Pardia, the survey indicates that a total of 51 percent of members of the Finnish public are against the privatisation of public services, and 39 percent are for it. The survey explored public opinion on the privatisation of public service provision, and the effects of privatisation on such services.
Privatisation was welcomed most by entrepreneurs (58%), white collar workers (45%) and pensioners (42%). It had least support among blue collar workers (31%), students (31%) and the unemployed (25%). Northern Finland (31%) had clearly less enthusiasm for privatisation than other regions.
No to savings at the expense of services
“Saving on service costs is one of the key reasons given by the government for privatising public services. However, our survey indicates that Finns are sceptical about the creation of savings,” Simola says.
A total of 48 percent of citizens do not believe that privatisation will generate savings, 37 percent believe that it will, and 14 percent remain undecided on the issue. Only among students and entrepreneurs did a majority of respondents believe that savings would be achieved.
“The aim of private actors is to create a return on investment and for their shareholders. This makes it difficult to see where savings can be generated. Cost-savings should not be based on simply weakening terms of employment or compromising on service quality.”
Service availability is important
“Citizens fear that the privatisation of public services will undermine equal access to services and the related transparency and supervision.
Around half (50%) of citizens felt that equal access to services would be reduced by privatisation. A total of 16 percent believed that equality of access would be improved by the privatisation of public service provision, 18 percent did not believe that there would be any effect and 17 percent did not provide an opinion on this.
The highest proportion of those who believed that equality of access would improve were found among entrepreneurs (27%), white collar workers (19%) and pensioners (18%), while the lowest were found among the unemployed (10%), blue collar workers (9%) and students (9%). Southern Finland (19%) and municipalities with over 100,000 (18%) or under 10,000 inhabitants had most confidence in such an improvement.
“State-funded services, such as high-quality labour and employment services, should be guaranteed – on an equal basis and regardless of place of residence – throughout the country.
Simola believes that the government should re-evaluate the privatisation of service provision. The issue of whether tasks are performed for the common good or ultimately for profit is far from irrelevant.