In December 2019, Finland elected Sanna Marin as the country’s youngest prime minister at only 34, representing the Social Democratic Party. She is only one of the young female leaders in Finland’s government leading different parties, most under the age of 35. Marin’s election made world news, but she wasn’t done. During her first month, she introduced a project to implement a four-day work week to increase productivity and improve the well-being of the citizens.
Being the youngest prime minister isn’t Marin’s only accomplishment. Marin has worked all her life, having her first job at a bakery when she was just 15. She then worked as a cashier, which earned her criticism from other politicians believing she was simply a “sales girl,” but others believe this makes her relatable and helps her understand the working class better than other politicians. She has been involved in politics for most of her life, having her first leadership position at just 27 when she was in charge of the Tampere City Council. After her time on the city council she was elected as the Minister of Transport and Communications, which would be her last political position before being elected as the prime minister to replace Antti Rinne.
She made news by simply being elected, but she’s not done yet. As mentioned, Marin is proposing a new workweek standard. Her alternate proposals include having a four-day work week or a six-hour workday in order to increase productivity across the country. Finland has been looking at this issue for years, even putting a policy in place to help employees have some control over their hours, but this would revolutionize how the country works and what would be a normal business day. Marin proposed this change before she was even elected prime minister, but with her new position she could have the power to initiate it.
A four-day work week has been tested in some small companies and has increased productivity significantly. One of the best examples is Microsoft Japan, who in 2019 started having some employees take Friday off and decreased meeting times to see if productivity increased. Through this experiment productivity increased 40%, but that wasn’t the only benefit from this new schedule. Electricity costs fell 23%, employees printed fewer pages, and many employees experienced a better work-life balance. Many countries want to see if this could be implemented to increase family ties by giving families more time together instead of being separated by work.
Finland would not be the first country to try to implement this new system. Sweden and the UK have tried to make the change, but both countries have abandoned this idea saying it was not practical. Marin believes that it would be a drastic change, but that the benefits outweigh the difficulties. Because Marin has a working-class background, she understands the benefit that would come to workers if they had fewer hours. Additionally, this policy could act as a continuation of Finland’s efforts to give employees some say in the hours given to them.
Sanna Marin’s election is noteworthy, but she is still making waves by trying to revolutionize the work day in Finland. As she tries to improve her beloved country, I can almost guarantee this won’t be the last time you see Sanna Marin in global news.