Antti Palola´s speach in European Commission for Finnish Opinion leaders


Thank you for the invitation to this study visit and the possibility to discuss the European Strategic Agenda for the next commission and for the Finnish EU Presidency 2019. The development of the European Union and Finland’s role in it is of a great importance to trade unions, so it’s a pleasure to be here today and contribute to the discussion on behalf of Finnish Confederation of Professionals – STTK.

We live today in a time of global changes where world’s economic power is shifting as a result changing power balance, megatrends and rapid development. In this development Europe needs to be one of the leading powers, shaping the future and pushing for value based global development.
The way to achieve this is through strengthening the European Union – our competitiveness, knowledge and skills – and making sure that we stay at the fore front of development and manage disruption.

Leading development means mastering and making optimal use of digitalization and the possibilities that it brings. This in turn is done, through developing our working life skills and competences. Working life in Europe needs to maintain its high standard, we need to have high quality jobs and at the same time be adaptive to the global changes. We need to put emphasis on the wellbeing of employees so that the skilled work force stays in Europe and in working life.
Digitalization is changing the world of work as we all know. It substitutes and supplements human work in some areas. It changes the contents of tasks, and it creates new tasks and professions.

Current education systems and labour market policies are unable to react quick enough to repair skills gaps and meet changes in demand.

The lack of the right skills is the main factor hindering growth. And focus must be on developing specialized knowledge rather than general knowledge. We must strive towards developing STEAM competences (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics), digitalization and artificial intelligence skills, co-operation and networking skills, psychology and emotional intelligence.

Inevitably, as a result of digitalization, the labour market value of some employees will be declining. Current education systems and labour market policies are unable to react quick enough to repair skills gaps and meet changes in demand. Our current lifelong learning systems are too stiff and too often form silos. The trainings do not adequately serve the needs of the employees.

The ability to manage change is not developed enough in companies or at state level. And there are no systems in place to ensure a secure change. This is an area where the European Union can find solutions to support member states by continuing the work of implementing the principles in the European Pillar of Social rights.

We need to ensure that our workforce has quality degrees to build on throughout their careers.

To ensure that we stay competitive we need to move away from our one-sided way of valuing only degree-based education and instead develop competence training and skills training in working life. We need to ensure that our workforce has quality degrees to build on throughout their careers.

Through skills and employment, the new technologies also have an impact on the distribution of income. Especially in the short term, there is a risk of growing inequalities ad polarization. Renewal of tax-systems and wealth distribution are needed if we want to avoid disruption having negative effects on the development of future societies.

In the development of the European Union STTK believes that the most important focus today and in the current situation in both Europe and the world, must be to strengthen democracy by bringing European decision making closer to the citizens. To do this, in Finland as well as in other European countries, we need to show that the European Union is a common project where the citizen is at the centre, benefits and can democratically influence society and its development. Workers and citizens need to be included when we speak of improving competitiveness and developing our economies. We are part of the solution in developing successful economies and societies.

To sum up: Investing in knowledge and skills is the best insurances for employees and employers alike to ensure European competitiveness in a changing world. Developing them needs to be the European strategic focus for the next commission and the Finnish presidency 2019.