The Working Poor in Europe
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The Working Poor in Europe

Employment, Poverty and Globalization

Edited by Hans-Jürgen Andreß and Henning Lohmann

For a long time in-work poverty was not associated with European welfare states. Recently, the topic has gained relevance as welfare state retrenchment and international competition in globalized economies has put increasing pressures on individuals and families. This book provides explanations as to why in-work poverty is high in certain countries and low in others.
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Chapter 7: “Much Ado About Nothing?” Institutional Framework and Empirical Findings on the Working Poor Phenomenon in Finland from 1995 to 2005

Ilpo Airio, Susan Kuivalainen and Mikko Niemelä


7. ‘Much ado about nothing?’ Institutional framework and empirical findings on the working poor phenomenon in Finland from 1995 to 2005 Ilpo Airio, Susan Kuivalainen and Mikko Niemelä INTRODUCTION Comparatively speaking, Finland is a country with little poverty. This situation changed, however, in the 1990s. During the years from 1990 to 1993, Finland experienced a deep economic recession; the gross domestic product (GDP) declined by 13 per cent and unemployment rose to 18 per cent (see, for example, Kiander and Virtanen, 2002). Following the recession, income inequality and poverty increased, and poverty became a political and societal concern (Kuivalainen et al., 2005). Poverty was no longer seen as a problem limited to a small, marginalized group; rather it was publicly realized that poverty also touches those who were traditionally thought to be well secured against poverty – the working population. In Finland, discussion of the working poor became particularly prominent in 2003, after the publication of Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Nickel and Dimed in Finnish (Ehrenreich, 2003). Although a great deal of discussion took place, there was hardly any empirical research conducted on the issue. Therefore, the discussion was – and still is – based on loose ground. One might ask whether the worry over in-work poverty in Finland has simply been ‘much ado about nothing’ – especially because studies conducted in the late 1990s indicated that poverty indisputably affects the unemployed, particularly the long-term unemployed, and that work is the best guarantee against poverty (see, for example, Kangas and Ritakallio, 2005; Riihel...

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