Finland

   

Social Policies

#5
Key Findings
With a generally strong safety net, Finland falls into the top group internationally (rank 5) in the area of social policies. Its score in this area has declined by 0.3 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. Spending cuts have undermined education-sector performance somewhat. Pockets of relative poverty persist despite generally very efficient redistributive policies.

Implementation of a reform shifting social-welfare and health care responsibilities from municipalities to larger governmental entities has been delayed by constitutional concerns. Child-poverty rates are low, and women’s employment rates high. A reform currently under development would encourage more equal sharing of parental leave and better facilitate mothers’ labor-market participation.

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, occasionally turning violent, but the refugee crisis has triggered somewhat more favorable attitudes toward immigration overall.

Education

#2

To what extent does education policy deliver high-quality, equitable and efficient education and training?

10
 9

Education policy fully achieves the criteria.
 8
 7
 6


Education policy largely achieves the criteria.
 5
 4
 3


Education policy partially achieves the criteria.
 2
 1

Education policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Education Policy
8
Built on the principle of lifelong learning, education policy in Finland promotes and maintains high educational standards. All people by law must have equal access to high-quality education and training, basic education is free, and municipalities are responsible for providing educational services to all local children. By and large, Finland’s education system has proved successful and in recent years ranked at the top of the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment. However, while Finland remains among the top performers, the ranking of the country appears to be slipping as gender and regional disparities in student performance significantly grow. The Education and Research Development Plan, revised every four years by the government, directs the implementation of education- and research-policy goals as stated in the government program. Since 2011, the plan has focused on the alleviation of poverty, inequality and exclusion. While Finland’s expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP was above the OECD average some years ago, heavy cuts by the government in the education sector have now weakened the financial conditions for designing and pursuing education policy. In 2016, new curricula for compulsory basic education was introduced, designed to increase equality in compulsory education, enhance pupil participation in goal-setting and evaluation, and integrate more technology in teaching. While the curricula reflect more thoroughly the growing needs of a knowledge society, it has been criticized for the short period of transition involved with implementing it and the lack of resources and training for teachers. Additionally, partial restrictions on the right to day care for children whose parents are not participating in the labor market undermine equal access to early education, especially in socially vulnerable families.

Citations:
Education and Research 2011-2016. A development plan. Reports of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland 2012:3;
“Education Policy Outlook Finland”, oecd.org/edu/highlightsFinland.htm;
“The new curricula in a nutshell”, http://www.oph.fi/english/curricula_and_qualifications/basic_education/curricula_2014;
oecd.org/edu/highlightsfinland.htm.

Social Inclusion

#2

To what extent does social policy prevent exclusion and decoupling from society?

10
 9

Policies very effectively enable societal inclusion and ensure equal opportunities.
 8
 7
 6


For the most part, policies enable societal inclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 5
 4
 3


For the most part, policies fail to prevent societal exclusion effectively and ensure equal opportunities.
 2
 1

Policies exacerbate unequal opportunities and exclusion from society.
Social Inclusion Policy
8
The Finnish constitution safeguards basic economic, social and educational rights for all people, with these rights guaranteed both by the state and by municipal authorities. However, reality does not entirely measure up to this ideal. While social policy largely prevents poverty and the income-redistribution system has proven to be one of the most efficient in the European Union, pockets of relative poverty and social exclusion still prevail. Furthermore, inequalities in well-being exist between regions and municipalities, depending on demographic composition and economic strength. In general, the economic crisis in Finland has exposed an increasing number of people to long-term unemployment and poverty.

In terms of life satisfaction and gender equality, the government has embarked on a number of programs to improve itsperformance. The Act on Equality between Women and Men was passed in 1986 and gender discrimination is prohibited under additional legislation. Despite this legislation, inequalities between men and women prevail, especially in the workplace. The government has placed a particular emphasis on programs for at-risk youth from 15 to 17 years old who experience social exclusion, as well as on programs to create equal opportunities for disabled individuals. Immigrants are another group that faces social exclusion, especially due to poor integration in the labor market. The explosive increase in the number of immigrants in 2016 and 2017 has certainly added to these difficulties.

Citations:
“Socially Sustainable Finland 2020. Strategy for Social and Health Policy”, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Helsinki, 2010.

Health

#9

To what extent do health care policies provide high-quality, inclusive and cost-efficient health care?

10
 9

Health care policy achieves the criteria fully.
 8
 7
 6


Health care policy achieves the criteria largely.
 5
 4
 3


Health care policy achieves the criteria partly.
 2
 1

Health care policy does not achieve the criteria at all.
Health Policy
7
Health policies in Finland have over time led to palpable improvements in public health such as a decrease in infant-mortality rates and the development of an effective health-insurance system. Furthermore, Finnish residents have access to extensive health services despite comparatively low per capita health costs. Yet criticisms are common regarding life expectancy, perceived health levels, the aging population and an inadequate provision of local health care resources. Also, Finland’s old-age dependency ratio is increasing substantially, although not as dramatically as in some other EU countries, and many clinics formerly run by municipal authorities have been privatized. Government planning documents outline preventive measures. For example, the 2015 Public Health Program describes a broad framework to promote health across various sectors of the government and public administration. Similarly, the Socially Sustainable Finland 2020 strategy sets out the current aims of Finland’s social and health policy. In November 2015, the government agreed on a major social and health care reform (SOTE) that will move responsibilities for social welfare and health care services from municipalities to 18 larger governmental entities (counties) beginning in 2020. Also, a planned reform envisions greater freedom for clients in choosing between public and private health care providers; at the time of writing, however, the implementation of this reform remains the subject of considerable political conflict and debate. After concerns by the Constitutional Law Committee in June 2017, the government will now issue a new proposal on the SOTE reform in early 2018.

Citations:
“Government Resolution on the Health 2015 Public Health Programme”. Helsinki: Publications of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 2001;
Juha Teperi et al., “The Finnish Health Care System”, Sitra Reports 82, 2009;
“Socially Sustainable Finland 2020. Strategy for Social and Health Policy”, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, 2014;
http://alueuudistus.fi/en/social-welfare-and-health-care-reform.

Families

#8

To what extent do family support policies enable women to combine parenting with participation in the labor market?

10
 9

Family support policies effectively enable women to combine parenting with employment.
 8
 7
 6


Family support policies provide some support for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 5
 4
 3


Family support policies provide only few opportunities for women who want to combine parenting and employment.
 2
 1

Family support policies force most women to opt for either parenting or employment.
Family Policy
9
Family policy in Finland adheres to the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as other international agreements. Finland’s family-policy programs aim to create a secure environment for children and support parents’ physical and mental resources. By and large, family policy has been successful. For example, child poverty has practically been eradicated. Support for families has three main elements: financial support for services and family leave, child benefits, and the provision of day care services. Access to public day care is guaranteed to all children under seven years of age, and allowances are paid for every child until they turn 17. However, in recent years, as parts of structural reform packages, the Sipilä government has implemented changes in the right to day care, with potentially far-reaching consequences. Limiting the right to day care to part-time coverage will likely increase inequalities in early-childhood education and weakens the position of children in socially marginalized families.

Family policy also remains problematic with regard to gender equality. Although the employment rate and, in particular, full-time employment rate among women is among the highest in the EU, family policies have still not fully solved the challenge of combining parenting and employment. In the first half of 2017, the fertility rate fell to an all-time low, continuing a trend of last two years. In practice, although the number of fathers that take paternity leave has somewhat increased, child care responsibilities still fall predominately on women. Also, the home care allowance of up to three years encourages Finnish women to leave the labor market after having a child for a longer period than women in other countries. Comparative examinations of Nordic family policies suggest that family policies in Finland have not developed to fully match the more flexible family policy arrangements in, for example, Norway and Sweden. The Sipilä government plans a major family policy reform. This reform aims for a more equal sharing of parental leave between men and women as well as advancing mothers’ labor market participation. In general, evidence has shown that family-centered thinking is increasing among Finnish adults and within Finnish culture more generally. In short, the family has become more important for the individual.

Citations:
Katja Repo, “The Contradiction of Finnish Childcare Policies”, www.ungdata.no/reassessassets/20608/20608.ppt;
Mia Hakovirta and Minna Rantalaiho, “Family Policy and Shared Parenting in Nordic Countries”, European Journal of Social Security, Vol. 13 No 2, pp. 247-266, 2011.

Pensions

#5

To what extent does pension policy realize goals of poverty prevention, intergenerational equity and fiscal sustainability?

10
 9

Pension policy achieves the objectives fully.
 8
 7
 6


Pension policy achieves the objectives largely.
 5
 4
 3


Pension policy achieves the objectives partly.
 2
 1

Pension policy does not achieve the objectives at all.
Pension Policy
9
The Finnish pension system has two schemes: a residence-based, national pension, and a mandatory employment-based, earnings-related pension. Voluntary occupational schemes and private pension savings play a minor role; still, about one-fifth of Finnish citizens report saving for old-age either in specific private pension schemes, common saving accounts, or other kinds of assets. Successfully managed by the social partners as well as the government, the overall pension policy has thus far been able to provide adequate pension provision and Finland has, by and large, avoided the classic problem of poverty in old age. However, the oldest cohorts, women and retirees living alone suffer from poverty more often than other retirees. The ongoing aging of Finland’s population creates problems in terms of labor-force maintenance and fiscal sustainability and the economic crisis in Europe has added to these problems. Present strategies aim at encouraging later retirement in order to ensure that the state pension provides sufficient funding.

A major reform of the pension system in 2005 aimed at increasing pension-policy flexibility and creating more incentives for workers to stay in employment. In 2011, a national guarantee pension was introduced. While these reforms were successful, a further major reform came into effect in 2017, the main goal again being to lengthen careers and help close the sustainability gap in public finances. Major changes imply a gradual rise in the lowest retirement age, a harmonization of pension accrual, an increase in deferred retirement (to provide an incentive to stay in work life longer), flexible part-time retirement and amendments to the accumulation rate. The European Commission has encouraged Finland to consider linking the retirement age to the extending life expectancy; in line with this suggestion, the present reform links the retirement age to life expectancy beginning in 2030. At present, Finland ranks in the middle of the EU in terms of average exit age from the labor force, but the effective retirement age is expected to reach its target level of 62.4 years in 2025.

Citations:
Nicholas Barr, “The Pension System in Finland: Adequacy, Sustainability and Systems Design”, Finnish Centre for Pensions, 2013;
Agreement on the 2017 Earnings-related Pension Reform, http://www.etk.fi/wp-content/uploads/agreement_on_2017_earnings_related_pension_reform_final.pdf;
“The Finnish Pension System”, http://www.infopankki.fi/en/living-in-Finland/work_and_enterprise/pension;
Susan Kuivalainen, Juha Rantala, Kati Ahonen, Kati Kuitto and Liisa-Maria Palomäki (eds.) 2017. Eläkkeet ja eläkeläisten toimeentulo 1995–2015 [Pensions and livelihood of retirees 1995-2015]. Helsinki: Finnish Centre for Pensions.

Integration

#22

How effectively do policies support the integration of migrants into society?

10
 9

Cultural, education and social policies effectively support the integration of migrants into society.
 8
 7
 6


Cultural, education and social policies seek to integrate migrants into society, but have failed to do so effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Cultural, education and social policies do not focus on integrating migrants into society.
 2
 1

Cultural, education and social policies segregate migrant communities from the majority society.
Integration Policy
7
Since the beginning of the 1980s, Finland has witnessed more immigration than emigration. From 1990 to 2016, the share of the population with a foreign background grew from 0.8% to 6.6%. Several factors have challenged the management of this inflow of immigrants. Second-generation immigrants have had difficulties entering education or finding work. There are also differences in labor-market attachment relative to migrants’ countries of origin; Estonians, for example, finding their way into employment much more easily than migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

Boosting rates of labor-market participation is one of the key targets of the government’s Future of Migration 2020 Strategy and 2016 Action Plan. While Finland, in terms of a per capita ratio, has received a fair share of asylum-seekers, the country is not considered to be among the top destinations for immigrants. This is the result of various factor. Applying for a Finnish residence permit is still a complicated process, as is applying for Finnish citizenship. Finnish is a difficult language and proficient language skills are required. While sympathetic to work-related immigration, authorities’ general attitude toward immigration is rather restrictive. Moreover, the Finns Party has used its platform within the cabinet to fan anti-immigrant sentiments and some demonstrations by anti-immigrant protesters against refugee accommodations have turned violent. However, according to polls, the share of favorable attitudes toward immigration among the public has slightly increased recently, which is in part due to the catastrophic refugee situation in the EU.

Citations:
Arno Tanner, “Finland’s Balancing Act”, http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/finlands-balancing-act-labor-market-humanitarian-relief-and-immigrant-integration;
“Finland must develop its Immigration and Integration Policies”, http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/;
Eve Kyntäjä, “Integration Policy in Finland”, h24-files.s3.amazonnews.com/62061/837056/-audb.pdf;
Henna Busk, Signe Jauhiainen, Antti Kekäläinen, Satu Nivalainen and Tuuli Tähtinen 2016. “Maahanmuuttajat työmarkkinoilla: tutkimus eri vuosina Suomeen muuttaneiden työurista” [Immigrants on the labour market – A study of the working lives of immigrants arriving in Finland in different years]. Finnish Centre for Pensions, Studies 06/2016. Helsinki: Finnish Centre for Pensions;
Elli Heikkilä and Selena Peltonen, “Immigrants and Integration in Finland”, Institute of Migration, Turku.

Safe Living

#7

How effectively does internal security policy protect citizens against security risks?

10
 9

Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks very effectively.
 8
 7
 6


Internal security policy protects citizens against security risks more or less effectively.
 5
 4
 3


Internal security policy does not effectively protect citizens against security risks.
 2
 1

Internal security policy exacerbates the security risks.
Safe Living Conditions
9
According to the 2016 OSAC report, Finland continues to be a safe and secure environment for business, tourism, and living, having one of the world’s most effective police forces. The 2017 OSAC report reaffirms this evaluation. Indeed, Finland remains among the safest countries in Europe and features a very low crime rate. Still, as evident from the 2017 OSAC report, there has been an increase in the crime rate in recent years, especially in sex crimes, hate crimes and fraud-related crimes. According to polls, Finnish citizens regard the police as one of the most reliable public institutions. Following the establishment of a First Program on Internal Security in 2004, government in 2012 adopted the Third Internal Security Program, with the aim of reducing citizen’s daily security concerns. The program’s overall implementation has been monitored by the Ministry of the Interior. Additionally, the government has adopted or is considering national strategies for combating organized crime, the informal economy, and terrorism. Involving a collaboration between municipalities, regions, organizations, business and public administration, preparations for a new national strategy outline were initiated in August 2016 and completed in April 2017. An Implementation Programme for Finland’s Cyber Security Strategy for 2017 – 2020 has been adopted and measures have been taken to increase national and international cooperation between intelligence and police authorities.

Citations:
“Turvallisempi huominen. Sisäisen turvallisuuden ohjelma.” 26/2012. Ministry of Interior, Helsinki; http://www.intermin.fi/download/34893_262012_STO_III_fi.pdf;
http://www.intermin.fi/fi/kehittamishankkeet/sisaisen_turvallisuuden_strategia;
turvallisuuskomitea.fi/index.php/en/materials.

Global Inequalities

#11

To what extent does the government demonstrate an active and coherent commitment to promoting equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries?

10
 9

The government actively and coherently engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. It frequently demonstrates initiative and responsibility, and acts as an agenda-setter.
 8
 7
 6


The government actively engages in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. However, some of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 5
 4
 3


The government shows limited engagement in international efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries. Many of its measures or policies lack coherence.
 2
 1

The government does not contribute (and often undermines) efforts to promote equal socioeconomic opportunities in developing countries.
Global Social Policy
7
Based on international humanitarian law, international human-rights treaties and laws regarding refugees, Finnish humanitarian aid is committed to aid principles as laid down by the OECD Development Assistance Committee. However, due to severe strains in the Finnish economy, the government has been forced to decide and implement considerable reductions in the amount of humanitarian aid. In 2016, Finland spent €956 million for development cooperation, accounting for 0.44% of GNI. In 2015, the share was 0.55%. Altogether, development cooperation appropriations decreased in 2016 from the previous year by 18%. Under the 2017 budget, €881 million is reserved for development cooperation appropriations. Finland emphasizes the primary role of the United Nations in coordinating the provision of aid, and in general channels its funds for humanitarian aid through U.N. organizations. In terms of development coordination, such as work to improve the economic and social position of developing countries, Finland’s contributions are implemented through various methods. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs, in conjunction with external consultants, monitor the attainment of goals and the use of funds, and in June 2014 the ministry introduced an online service enabling anybody to report suspected misuse of development-cooperation funds. The overall efficiency of Finnish efforts is not high and the country is not counted among the world’s top aid initiators or agenda-setters. In terms of advancing global social inclusion, Finland is a committed partner rather than a leader.

Citations:
“Finland’s Development Policy Programme 2012”, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 6/19/2012;
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, http://www.formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=251855.
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