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Old people, fixed jobs seen dragging down Finland's next decade growth

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland’s economy will grow faster than earlier predicted over the next few years, but the aging population and rigid labor markets will drag it down over the longer term, the finance ministry said on Tuesday.

People walk past City Center shopping center in Helsinki, Finland, May 6, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Citing recovering exports, the ministry increased its growth projections for 2017, 2018 and 2019.

It now expects Finnish GDP to grow 2.9 percent this year, 2.1 percent in 2018 and 1.8 percent in 2019. In June, it had forecast growth of 2.4 percent, 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.

But further out, in 2020 and 2021, the ministry said growth would be just 1.3 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, and average growth in 2020-2030 would be below 1.5 percent.

“This growth sprint will be a temporary one... The general conditions for economic growth have not changed to such an extent as to increase the economy’s growth potential,” senior official Mikko Spolander told a news conference.

Finland is recovering from a decade of stagnation sparked among other things by a decline of Nokia's NOKIA.HE former phone business and a recession in neighboring Russia.

Nokia was once dominant in Finland, providing 4 percent of its GDP and 20 percent of its exports.

Spolander, who is director general of the ministry’s economics department, said the time was right now for further government reforms to boost employment.

The center-right government, led by Prime Minister Juha Sipila, has aimed to boost growth and curb public debt growth by cuts in spending and workers’ benefits, but it has so far struggled to push through major reforms in the economy.

The ministry said general government debt would fall slightly below 60 percent by 2021 but said that it would bounce back up afterwards.

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell. Editing and graphic by Jeremy Gaunt