Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Producing reliable results over the course of recent years, Finland’s economic policies receive high rankings (rank 8) in international comparison. Its score in this area has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Economic growth has been moderate but steady in recent years, driven by strong exports. The government has focused on efforts to restore vibrancy, increase competitiveness and reduce debt continue to top the public agenda.

Unemployment rates have declined to moderate levels of around 6.8%, but efforts to address long-term and youth unemployment have been less successful. Some recent activation measures reducing benefits for job seekers are likely to be reversed. Income taxes are strongly progressive, and municipal tax rates high. Corporate taxes are lower than in most other Nordic and EU member states

Budget deficits have been moderate, with the public-debt ratio just above 60% of GDP. The new government had hoped to use spending increases to boost the employment rate and economic activity, while balancing the budget by 2023, but slowing growth rates are dimming these prospects. R&D spending, which once topped the EU, has declined over recent years.

Social Policies

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. The new government has increased education spending. Pockets of relative poverty persist despite generally very efficient redistributive policies. Improving services to prevent loneliness has become a key social-inclusion issue.

The parliamentary failure of a major reform shifting social-welfare and healthcare responsibilities from municipalities to larger governmental entities triggered the government’s resignation. Child-poverty rates are low, and women’s employment rates high. The new government’s plans to promote a more equal distribution of care between mothers and fathers has run into political hurdles.

The pension system generally prevents poverty, but the government is seeking to boost benefits for the poorest retirees. Immigrants have difficulty integrating in the labor market, even in the second generation. Applying for a residence permit is still a complicated process. Development aid is viewed as a key aspect of security and foreign policy.

Environmental Policies

With a strong record of cooperation on conservation issues, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 5) with respect to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.6 points since 2014.

Contributions to combating climate change have been modest overall. According to a report released in late 2019, greenhouse-gas emissions had grown by 2% compared to the previous year. The country has focused strongly on water pollution, curbing industrial emissions and cleaning polluted waterways, but farm-produced waterway pollution remains a challenge.

Forest protection has also been a top priority. Efforts to halt a decline in biodiversity have been insufficient, although the government has created networks of protected areas.

The country has engaged in and honors a large number of international environmental agreements, but is rarely a forerunner in creating these regimes. It chaired the Arctic Council from 2017 to 2019, and is promoting implementation of the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Robust Democracy


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 its 2014 level.

Campaign-finance laws are strict, featuring transparency requirements and independent monitoring. A widely used popular-initiative system allows the public to submit issues to parliament on a non-binding basis. The media is strongly independent, but becoming increasingly concentrated. The rise of social media is shifting the way candidates are campaigning and communicating with voters.

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 has encouraged 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.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

With its broadly evidence-based system, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 2) 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 (which was deemed unsuccessful). The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has broad policy-review capabilities, and works closely with ministries. Decision-making is collective and consensual, with interministerial coordination strong at all levels.

RIA use is systematic, though there is no such strategy for ex post evaluation. Interest organizations are regularly involved in the legislative process, with the new government seeking to revitalize tripartite consultation. Vested interests do not generally receive preferential treatment in regulatory enforcement proceedings.

Internal disagreements have been publicly evident in the new, ideologically broad government. The previous government resigned due to its failure to implement an ambitious healthcare reform. The new government has launched a joint communications model for its main reform projects, with strategic ministerial working groups guiding government program items within specific policy areas.

Executive Accountability

With strong oversight mechanisms in place, Finland falls into the top ranks internationally (rank 3) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have access to considerable resources, and very strong formal executive-oversight powers. The audit and ombuds offices are well-funded and independent. The ombudsperson can initiate investigations on his or her own initiative, and conduct onsite investigations if necessary. Two separate data-protection authorities oversee personal-data and privacy issues.

Evidence indicates strongly varying degrees and types of policy knowledge in different demographic cohorts. The media produces a considerable quantity of high-quality information. Although declining, daily newspaper circulation figures remain reasonably high. Social media has enhanced the public’s political knowledge, while also endangering the production of independent 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, though this corporatist structure is regularly criticized. Other interest groups often present influential if narrow proposals and analyses.
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