Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite growing economic concerns, Finland’s economic policies place it in the top group (rank 4) internationally. Its score in this area has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The country has experienced several years of marginal or negative growth, driven by declining export competitiveness, weakened investment and subdued domestic consumption. The Russian recession and declines in several key industries have contributed. Medium-term forecasts are for moderate to low levels of growth.

Unemployment rates peaked above 10%, but are again falling. Youth unemployment is a particular concern. New active labor-market strategies cut the duration of unemployment benefits and set stricter conditionalities. Income taxes are strongly progressive, and municipal tax rates high. Corporate taxes have been cut, and complexity reduced.

Budget deficits are moderate, but the government has been unable to halt the growth in public debt. Debt levels are thus reaching worrisome levels, but remain below the EU average. R&D spending, which once topped the EU, has declined.

Social Policies

With a generally strong safety net, Finland falls into the top group internationally (rank 4) in the area of social policies. Its score in this area has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

The education system is of high quality, though the country’s outstanding PISA scores are slipping due to gender and regional disparities in student performance. A new basic-education curriculum has been introduced. Pockets of relative poverty persist despite generally very efficient redistributive policies.

Seeking savings, social-welfare and health care responsibilities are being shifting from municipalities to larger governmental entities, with greater freedom to choose private health care being granted. Child-poverty rates are low, and women’s employment rates high. However, child-care duties push many women toward part-time work, and public-day-care rights are being curtailed.

The pension system generally prevents poverty, while ongoing reforms are addressing fiscal concerns. Immigrants are not well integrated in the labor market. Anti-immigrant protests have occurred, but the refugee crisis has triggered somewhat more favorable attitudes toward immigration overall.

Environmental Policies

With a strong record of cooperation on conservation issues, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 6) with respect to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points since 2014.

The country has focused strongly on water pollution, curbing industrial emissions and cleaning polluted waterways. Forest protection has also been a top priority. Efforts to halt a decline in biodiversity have been insufficient, and contributions to combating climate change have been modest overall.

The country has engaged in and honors a large number of international environmental agreements, but is rarely a forerunner in creating these regimes. It has been more proactive with regard to shaping Arctic-region policy.



Quality of Democracy

With an outstanding mix of procedures and protections, Finland falls into the top group internationally (rank 2) with regard to quality of democracy. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Campaign-finance laws are strict, featuring transparency requirements and independent monitoring. A widely used new popular-initiative system allows the public to submit issues to parliament on a non-binding basis. The media is strongly independent and pluralistic, with the healthy market promoting high-quality journalism despite digital competition.

Civil rights are generally strongly protected, with same-sex marriage and adoption rights recently granted. Anti-discrimination rules are broad, although the small Roma community is marginalized. The Finns Party, which is part of the government coalition, encourages discrimination against ethnic minorities.

Legal certainty is a strong part of the political culture. Courts are independent, though no constitutional court exists. Corruption is rare.



Executive Capacity

With a broadly evidence-based system, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 1) with regard to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Strategic planning is deeply integrated into policymaking. Evidence-based planning is enhanced using trial projects, as in the case of the basic-income experiment. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has broad policy-review capabilities, and works closely with ministries. However, decision-making is based on ministerial consensus rather than PMO leadership. Interministerial coordination is strong at all levels.

RIA use is systematic, with quality high. Interest organizations are regularly involved in the legislative process, although the role played by tripartite labor-market negotiations is weakening. Tensions within the government coalition have led to vagueness in communication.

While the current government’s agenda is shorter and more focused than its predecessors’, several proposals have already been abandoned. Municipal governments must meet strict standards, but have significant tax-levying powers, with revenues shared in part. The government has exceeded standards set in some EU climate-related agreements.

Executive Accountability

With strong oversight mechanisms in place, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 4) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.2 points relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have adequate resources, and very strong formal executive-oversight powers. The audit and ombudsman offices are well-funded and independent. Use of the ombuds services has risen consistently in recent years.

Citizens’ policy interest and trust in political institutions have risen in recent years. The media produces considerable high-quality information.

Political parties are responsive to members’ input, but leaders decide most issues. The large economic-interest associations have long been integrated into the policymaking process. Other interest groups often present influential if narrow proposals and analyses.
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