Regional variations in working hours and work orientation in Finland


  • Toivo Muilu Department of Geography, University of Oulu


The aim of the present investigation is to examine changes in the quality of working life in Finland in terms of occupational, socioeconomic and demographic groups. Quality is measured by means of working hours (objective dimension) and workers' opinions on their careers, i.e. their work orientations (subjective dimension). The quality of working life as a part of welfare is approached theoretically through the concepts of work research, spatial division of labour, welfare research, and segmentation theory. This exercise in human geography employs the concept of geography of work, the meaning of which is defined as part of the geographical research tradition.

The empirical material comprises 12 057 interviews of persons aged 15-74 years carried out by the Central Statistical Office of Finland for the Survey of Living Conditions in 1986 (LIV86) including a total of 7 050 employed persons whose replies are examined in more detail. A second body of material consists of statistics on working hours maintained by the CSO, the Ministry of Labour, ILO and OECD, by means of which various countries are compared in terms of working hours and more detailed comparisons made with respect to individual occupational categories in Finland.

Although orientation towards work was still good in 1986-1987, the segmentation of the labour market by age, sex and field of occupation with respect to the quality of working life was reflected both in working hours and in this orientation. The position of women, young people entering working life and older workers was poorer than that of other groups, although differences in orientation existed even within the groups. Examination of the material by occupational fields indicates that orientations towards work were poorest in many vital industrial sectors, a finding which can be considered alarming from the point of view of the competitive ability of Finnish industry in general.

The Helsinki region constituted an obvious positive exception in terms of the quality of working life. In addition to the advanced area-development area dimension, centre – periphery, mosaic ­– like and variation independent of any distinct regional hierarchy was also observed in the quality aspect. An examination based on household location types in turn indicates that work constituted a more important element in the content of life among persons living in urban areas than among those residents in rural areas, who more often reported that they received psychological satisfaction from their work. The results suggest that the administrative sphere and all research and planning related to working life should focus on developing its quality, for well-motivated, skilled workers will constitute an essential competitive factor in the future. The regional variation observed in the quality of working life also indicates that more administrative attention should be paid to the special conditions prevailing on labour markets at the local level.

Research Papers



How to Cite

Muilu, T. (1992). Regional variations in working hours and work orientation in Finland. Fennia - International Journal of Geography, 170(2), 95–203. Retrieved from