The Kunta10 survey of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has monitored employees' sick absences since 2000. The highest number of sickness absences was in 2008, when municipal employees were on average 19.4 days absent from work due to their own illness. Since 2013, the rate of sickness absences has remained between 16 and 17 days on average. In 2019, municipal employees were on average 16.5 days absent from work due to their own illness and in 2020 on average 16.7 days.

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Sickness absences in Finnish municipalities

Sickness absences

Total for Kunta10 data
200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020Sickness absences / pyw891011121314151617181920All

In the health care industry, sickness absences clearly increased

The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic has treated different occupational groups differently and the previously observed differences between occupational groups in sickness absences have increased. On the positive side, compared to a year ago, more and more employees (28%) were not absent even for a day due to their own illness. The share of these employees increased by five per cent compared to the previous year. On the other hand, in several groups in the health care industry, for example, the rate of sickness absences has clearly increased compared to 2019. There was an average increase of 1.5–3 sickness absence days compared to 2019 among early childhood teachers, child care workers, teachers' aides, dentists, public health nurses and registered nurses.

Among the health care professions and other occupational groups engaged in manual labour, the average rate of sickness absences is still the highest in 2020: teachers' aides, home care workers, practical and other nurses, child care workers, family day care providers, dental nurses, ward domestics, registered nurses, public health nurses and early childhood teachers were on a sickness absence on average 21–29 days annually. The lowest rates of sickness absences due to one's own illness were among managers, specialists, secretaries of finances, informants and teachers (6–8 days on average).

“In the light of both the results of the Kunta10 survey and these sickness absence statistics, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the workload, especially in social and health care. On the other hand, the pandemic has increased sickness absences in certain occupational groups also due to stricter guidelines: even with a runny nose you have not been able to go to work, and waiting for the coronavirus test results may have prolonged short absences. In our statistics, periods of absence of 1–3 days have decreased and longer periods have increased slightly,” says Jenni Ervasti, the Director of the Kunta10 survey.

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Sickness absences in Finnish municipalities

Occupational group differences

Kunta10 data, FIOH
200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020Sickness absences / pyw810121416182022242628AllManagers, special expertsExpertsOffice employeesPersonal service workersManual labour

Cross-section by occupation

20 largest professions by person years worked
2020
6.726.937.158.279.4110.7511.3212.5112.7113.0914.5416.817.2118.5718.5821.4921.7424.3826.1326.29technical special expertmunicipal administration specialexpertphysiciantechnical expertspecial needs teacherother special expertkitchen supervisor, cooksocial/youth workernurse, public health nursechildminderother managerfull-time teacher, part-timeteacherprimary school teachersocial workerother expertoffice employeefirefighter, security guardkindergarten teacherward domesticnurse, practical nurseSickness absences / pyw051015202530

Absences for those over 50 decreased, while those under 30 increased

In terms of age groups, the most positive development has taken place in the age groups over 50 among which the rate of sickness absences continues to decline. On the other hand, it is worrying that the number of sickness absences among municipal workers under the age of 30 has increased compared to 2019 and there are already more sickness absences on average than among those aged 30-50.

“The results are a cause for concern regarding young employees, who, on the other hand, often also work in occupations with high rates of sickness absences. It is, therefore, difficult to distinguish between the effects of age and occupation. On the other hand, encouraging results among older employees suggest that work ability support measures have been effective and well-targeted,” says Jenni Ervasti.

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Sickness absences in Finnish municipalities

Age group differences

Kunta10 data, FIOH
200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020Sickness absences / pyw81012141618202224Under 30 years30–39 years40–50 yearsOver 50 years

Higher sickness absence rates among women than men

In 2020, women had an average of 18.4 days of sickness absence days and men an average of 11.4 days, meaning that women were on average seven days more absent from work per year. This gender gap even seems to have widened in recent years, with the number of sickness absence days declining for men and remaining at the same level or even slightly increasing for women. Gender-segregated occupations explain the gender gap. Studies have found that occupational and work-related factors largely explain women's higher rates of sickness absence. Due to the first COVID-19 year, the occupational groups with the most increased rates of sickness absence are very female-dominated.

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Sickness absences in Finnish municipalities

Differences between genders

Kunta10 data, FIOH
200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011201220132014201520162017201820192020Sickness absences / pyw89101112131415161718192021MenWomen

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Kunta10 study is the most extensive nationwide follow-up study in the Finnish municipal sector. The Kunta10 study involves Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Tampere, Turku, Oulu, Naantali, Raisio, Nokia, Valkeakoski and Virrat. The annual sick absences of more than 90,000 municipal employees is monitored from the personnel registers of employers in a uniform manner in proportion to the actual sickness absence days and the number of person-years worked. These statistics do not include the causes of sick absences.

The Work-Life Knowledge service also offers data about the survey: Sickness absences in Finnish municipalities.