International mechanisms to revalue women's work: research

The report reviews different approaches to redress the undervaluation of women’s work and assesses their applicability to the Scottish employment context. The report finds that undervaluation of women’s work is a driver of the gender pay gap and makes recommendations to alleviate this disparity.

Appendix 1 – Case Study 4 – Finland: Equality Allowances

The GPG in Finland was 16.6% in 2019[95], while collective bargaining covers nearly 90% of employees[96]. This case study discusses the impact of national sectoral collective bargaining on the GPG and particularly women in health and social care. The background is the Competitiveness Pact, a national collective agreement signed following economic stagnation since 2008, which had resulted in a rapid increase in both unemployment and government debt.The Pact negotiated by the Finnish Government, business representatives and 90% of trade unions in 2016, had a disproportionate impact on low-paid women and by implication the GPG. In response to the outcome of this austerity measure, TEHY, the health care union, adopted a strategy of negotiating an ‘Equality Allowance’ for those in female-dominated occupations. In addition it argued that gender equality is not a priority for general collective agreements as the representatives taking part in the negotiations come from male-dominated sectors or occupations. The union secured an agreement to remove nursing staff from general collective agreements with a view to the negotiation of a separate collective agreement for health care professionals.


The vast majority (92%) of Finnish health care professionals are women. TEHY is the largest trade union in Finland for health and social care professionals with 160,000 members. All union members are qualified professionals who have a degree in health or social care or are studying to become a qualified health or social care professional. TEHY negotiates 10 collective agreements (one in the municipal sector, one in the state sector and eight in the private sector).

The Competitiveness Pact introduced by the Government in 2016 was negotiated and agreed as a way of preventing the introduction of further austerity measures. It was the first in Finland to have resulted in a reduction in real hourly wages, including a weakening of established working arrangements and benefits. The national agreement introduced a wage freeze for workers in private and public sectors until 2017, a 24-hour increase in annual working time, a 30% reduction in holiday bonuses (a sum in addition to holiday pay) in the public sector, an increase in pension and employment insurance contributions for employees, and a reduction of the same for businesses. It hit women in low-paid jobs in the health and social care municipal sector particularly hard. In this context and despite government and social partners commitment to challenging the GPG, progress had stalled.

TEHY’s strategy since the Competitive Pact has been to negotiate an Equality Allowance for women in female-dominated sectors over and above nationally negotiated increases along with the removal of the extra 24 hours annual working time. In addition TEHY has been pushing to remove nursing staff from the general collective agreements arguing that it has been difficult to change the pay and working conditions of nursing staff because the regulations are incorporated in large general collective agreements covering a diverse range of workers that require the agreement of all parties.


In 2021 TEHY achieved its aim of removing 180,000 municipal health and social care professionals, including homecare and residential care workers, from the general collective agreements and secured a separate collective agreement allowing for better consideration of the specific characteristics of nursing work. This includes shift and on-call work and renewed job descriptions due to health and social care reform. There are separate collective agreements for outsourced health and care workers.

While it has not yet achieved an Equality Allowance TEHY will try again in the next negotiations with local government employers in 2022 and it may attract the support of other unions. TEHY economists suggest that a 1.8% annual salary increase in the health and social care sector on top of what will be paid in future general collective agreements (in male-dominated occupations) could contribute to narrow, and potentially end, the GPG in Finland within ten years[97].


An Equality Allowance would need the support of trade unions, employers and local government employers and would have to be funded by the SG. The reconfiguration of collective bargaining structures for health and care workers would need similar support, but could be part of discussions of a National Care Service.



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