Finland Table of Contents
Article 84 of the Constitution Act stipulates that only Finnish citizens may be appointed to the civil service, although exceptions may be made for some technical and teaching positions. Article 85 states that educational requirements for the civil service will be set by law or statute, and that only on special grounds may the Council of State make an exception to the set requirements. Exceptions of this type seldom occur. No exceptions may be made for appointment to a judicial post. According to Article 86, successful applicants for civil service posts will be promoted on the basis of "skill, ability and proved civic virtue." State employees also often must have an appropriate mastery of the country's two official languages.
There is no general recruitment in Finland for civil service posts, nor does the country have a preferred school for training civil servants. The recruitment is done on an individual basis for a vacant or a newly created post.
Civil servants enjoy a fairly secure tenure in their posts, but they may be dismissed for poor performance or for disreputable behavior on or off the job. About 90 percent of civil servants were unionized in the late 1980s. Since the passage of the Act on Civil Service Collective Agreements in 1970, civil servants have had the right to strike. If a strike of a category of civil servants threatens society's welfare, the dispute may be reviewed, but not settled in a binding way, by a special board. If required, the Eduskunta may settle the disagreement through legislation.
By the early 1980s, there were about 125,000 civil servants employed in the national government, which made it the country's largest employer. More than twice this number worked for local government and for related institutions. Government employment grew rapidly during the 1960s and the 1970s, and was accompanied by a marked increase in the politicization of the civil service, especially at higher levels. Even at lower levels, posts were often filled on the basis of party affiliation. Sometimes appointments were arranged by "package deals," through which the parties secured for their members a suitable portion of available posts. Care was taken, however, that appointees met the stated requirements for state posts, and political parties even arranged for training so that their candidates would be qualified applicants for given posts.
Politicization of public jobs resulted partly from the desire that the civil service, traditionally conservative, reflect the new political dominance of the center-left governments formed after 1966. President Kekkonen also used the spoils system to cement the broad coalition governments he introduced in the second half of the 1960s (see Finland in the Era of Consensus, 1966-81 , ch. 1). A study from the early 1980s found that by 1980 the number of senior civil service posts occupied by nominees of the Center Party (Keskustapuolue--Kesk) and the Finnish Social Democratic Party (Suomen Sosialidemokraattinen Puolue--SDP) had doubled for the former and tripled for the latter in just fifteen years, mostly at the expense of officials linked to the National Coalition Party (Kansallinen Kokoomuspuolue--KOK).
Widespread criticism of the politicization of the civil service and complaints that the practice was harmful to efficiency and to democratic values led to recommendations for stricter control of hiring and even for the prohibition of all political appointments. By the late 1980s, no such ban had been instituted, but in general a decline in partisan nomination for civil service posts seemed to have occurred since the election of President Koivisto in 1982. Appointments in provincial governments, however, continued to be booty for politicians. Despite these partisan practices, the civil service had a reputation for competence, and it enjoyed the support of most Finns.
Data as of December 1988