Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Finland catching up with USA in productivity


The productivity of Finnish labour is among the best in Europe. According to the International Labour Organisation, Finland has managed to significantly improve its productivity, bringing it closer to that of the United States.
The high productivity figures in the USA are largely explained by long working days and short holidays.

Compared with the Americans, Finns work fairly short hours. According to a recently published report by the Union of Salaried Employees, a majority also appreciate the increase in time off. On the other hand, the ILO study indicates that the number of those working a long work week of 40 hours or more has increased in Finland as well.
In the view of Mika Maliranta, head of research at the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) the growth of productivity of Finnish labour is attributable to a transition into a true market economy, as well as greater use of information technology.
He notes that Finland has painstakingly implemented a successful technology and productivity policy, and that the level of education has also grown.

Taking a similar view is Professor Matti Pohjola at the Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration.
"The change in the production structure, the shift to predominantly technological production: the impact of information technology devices on economic growth has been great. Much of the productivity has come from there", Pohjola says.
However, Pohjola points out that the growth in productivity has slowed down since the 1970s.
"When you're far behind the others, growth is based on copying what the others do, and growth is rapid. When you're near the top there isn't so much to copy any more and you should do it yourself. That is difficult", Pohjola says.
He adds that the share of industry in comparison with services remains much bigger than in many other Western countries.
"There is still much to copy. It would be important to get many other sectors into the growth trend."

According to ETLA's Maliranta, the maintenance of productivity will prove more difficult, because Finland is already near the very top, and that there is little left to catch up with. He says that Finland is running short on good labour, and new ideas are needed.
He feels that the most interesting productivity question will be what happens when the postwar baby boom generation drops out of the workforce.

The world's highest labour productivity rate is in the United States. Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, has increased its status of bringing up the rear in labour efficiency.
When GDP in 2006 is divided by the number of people working, the Americans produce an average 63,885 dollars, or about EUR 46,900 worth of goods and services a year. Ireland, which is in second place, has the corresponding figure of about USD 56,000.
The Americans' advantage is attributable largely to the number of working hours. In 2006, US workers worked an average 1,804 hours in 2006, while in France, for instance, the average was 1,564 hours a year. In practice this is reflected in longer work weeks and in holidays that are much shorter than those for Europeans, the ILO reports.
Productivity per hour spent at work was the world's highest in Norway (38 dollars an hour) and second-highest in the USA (36.63 an hour).

Great story about the guy who saved the world

From the story:

"The bunker was in full-alarm, with red lights all over the place as the missile was captured by the Soviet satellites via computers. Petrov wasn't convinced though. He believed that if the US attacked, they would have attacked all-out, not just sending one missile and giving a chance for them (the Soviets) to attack back."

More traveling woes...

Massive surveillance net keeps track of Americans' travel -- down to the size of your hotel bed (

Now Europeans may have to have visas to come to the US:
"There is deep concern about the possibility of a terrorist attack in the United States this year because al Qaeda may be recruiting and giving explosives training to Europeans, many of whom can enter the country without a visa, the director of national intelligence told Congress." (CNN)

From the GLOBE meeting sponsored by the US Embassy

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Good job to have: Happiness Professor

Finland's second place in the latest European Social Survey (ESS) is explained by factors such as the country's high living standards and democracy, Markku Ojanen, head of the department of psychology at the University of Tampere, told the Finnish News Agency (STT) on Friday.

"Also equality and the sense of security reflect positively in the research findings," the self-appointed "happiness professor" added.

The above is from the full article online here.

I always enjoy an article that starts with this phrase...

"United States researchers have come up with a novel use for men's testicles..."

As someone who has been researching my own for quite a long time, I am
curious what "novel use" I missed.

See the Dilbert Blog for further commentary on this fascinating new development in the novel use of testicles.

Image by the BBC

Friday, September 21, 2007

More Miscellaneous Thoughts

Where do all the fruit flies come from in Finland? I have seen more fruit flies in Finland than in all the time I lived in Oklahoma. Did some biology laboratory have an escape?

Finns love traveling more than the destination. On a recent retreat with the Met-Research group at FMI, we spent almost more time traveling to destinations in Estonia than we did seeing the destinations. Other proof that Finns love to travel include the ferry trips to Estonia and Stockholm---all-night travel to see Stockholm for a few hours, then all night return? Estonia is even worse---three-plus hours of travel each way for a few hours in the town.

What is it about sauna that opens up usually reserved Finns?

The season is changing in Finland. The next-to-the-last week in August was the last time we saw temperatures in the mid 20s (deg C). I doubt it has been near 20 since then. Soon it will be the equinox when we have exactly 12 hours of daylight. This means that we are losing daylight at the fastest rate of the year. We have lost almost two hours of daytime since Sept. 1.

Invited talk at GLOBE Conference

Today I was invited to give a talk on "How Weather Observations Are Used to Make Weather Forecasts" at a conference for Finnish high-school science teachers. The conference was sponsored by the US Embassy through the auspices of the GLOBE program.

From their web site: "GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. GLOBE's vision promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment and the Earth system working in close partnership with NASA and NSF Earth System Science Projects (ESSPs) in study and research about the dynamics of Earth's environment."

My contact was Glenn Lewis who works at the Embassy. I was introduced by the Ambassador to Finland, Marilyn Ware, with very flattering words. She said that I was America's best export to Finland, and that America wants me back when Finland is done with me.

A New Motto for Underachievers...

ALARA is a program of the EU for minimizing radioactive waste. We saw this sign on our recent tour of the Paldiski Soviet Nuclear Submarine Training Center site clean-up in Estonia.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Berke Breathed Comic about Airline Travel

Friday, September 07, 2007

At a conference next week

I will be at the Fourth European Conference on Severe Storms in Trieste, Italy, next week, so blogging will be fairly light.

FMI has seven oral presentations and one poster, out of 70 oral presentations and 144 posters. That's 10% of the oral presentations, which is the largest contingent of any group at the conference. I think that is a pretty impressive showing. Especially for a country on the northern fringes of Europe with much less severe weather than many other countries farther south. I think it speaks to the high quality of research done on severe storms at FMI.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Swearing in Finland

Elena sent me this link about Finnish potty mouth, or bad language.

Image from Ye Olde Curiosity Shop