By Essi Lehto
HELSINKI (Reuters) - The Finnish government is planning a new law allowing workers to check what their colleagues are earning if they suspect they are being discriminated against, part of a bid to close the wage gap between men and women.
The bill has been criticised by both workers' unions, which want even more transparency, and the biggest employers' organisation, which says it would create more conflicts in the workplace.
But the centre-left five-party coalition of Prime Minister Sanna Marin is pushing ahead with the legislation to shrink the wage discrepancy.
"What is central to the government's programme is the elimination of unjustified pay gaps," Equality Minister Thomas Blomqvist told Reuters. "They will now be addressed more rigorously."
He said he expected the bill to be passed in parliament before elections in April 2023
Finnish women earned 17.2% less than men in 2020, according to a pay equality ranking by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The survey placed Finland in 37th position, well behind peers Norway in 8th, Denmark in 9th and Sweden in 12th, even though gender equality has been high on the political agenda for decades in Finland.
A 2018 report by the Finnish Equality Ombudsman showed the reasons are often similar to those in other western European nations - segregation of the job market into male- and female-dominated professions, fathers taking less parental leave than mothers, and women not being promoted as often as men.
Merja Mahka, a journalist turned investor and blogger, has since 2019 published what she earns on Twitter and Instagram to encourage public discussions about pay transparency.
"There have been situations where I've found out that a man doing a similar job to me has been paid more," said Mahka of her reasons, speaking on Tuesday as she published her taxed income of 48,522 euros ($56,111) for 2020.
Finnish tax authorities on Wednesday published the 2020 taxable income of every Finn, a day nicknamed "tax day" in Finland, when local media pore over the records of the rich and famous.
Though it is transparent, it does not give the full picture. The tax authority has estimated a person's taxed income is on average 75-80% lower than their actual income because of deductions and tax-free dividends.
With regards to the upcoming government proposal, the main employers' organisation, the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK), left the parliament pay transparency working group last November in protest at how quickly changes to the law were being proposed.
A senior legal adviser for the group, Katja Leppanen, told Reuters EK would have liked to do more research into the wage gap and said giving information about pay should be voluntary.
"Making publishing detailed information on individual salaries mandatory would lead to general curiosity and a deterioration of the work atmosphere," she said.
Workers' unions and the equality ombudsman Jukka Maarianvaara said they think enough research has been done during the past three government tenures and that it is now time to act.
"Closing the gap requires a change in attitudes and therefore it is necessary to change the law to change the culture," added Katarina Murto, director at Akava, the Confederation of Unions for Professional and Managerial Staff.
Drafting the proposed bill, part of the five-party coalition's joint political programme, to combine the different views of the working group has been difficult and publication has been delayed. But Blomqvist told Reuters it would go ahead.
"We will adhere to what we agreed on in the government programme," he said.
($1 = 0.8648 euros)
(Editing by Gwladys Fouche and Jan Harvey)