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. 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.

Education

#3

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. Teachers are well-trained and teaching is still considered an attractive profession. In comparison with most other countries, teachers in Finland enjoy a high level of autonomy and are not formally evaluated, and there are very few national tests for students. 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. However, the center-left Rinne government installed in June 2019 proclaimed that education would be one of its key areas of focus. In line with this commitment, the budget proposal for 2020 included increases in funding for education and research.

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 in some communities, 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.
“Finnish Teachers and Principals in Figures,” https://www.oph.fi/download/189802_finnish_teachers_and_principals_in_figures.pdf
https://valtioneuvosto.fi/en/rinne/government-programme/finland-that-promotes-competence-education-culture-and-innovation

Social Inclusion

#8

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
7
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 very general terms, the northeastern part of Finland is characterized by higher levels of unemployment and ill health han the southwestern part of the country.

In terms of life satisfaction and gender equality, the government has embarked on a number of programs to improve its performance. 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 strong increase in the number of incoming immigrants in 2016 and 2017 added to these difficulties. Furthermore, the growing number of people (especially older people) living alone, and widespread perceptions of loneliness among children and young people have gained attention. Improving the inclusion in society of vulnerable groups and the design of services to prevent loneliness have become core issues within the social inclusion agenda.

Citations:
“Socially Sustainable Finland 2020. Strategy for Social and Health Policy,” Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Helsinki, 2010.
Blomgren, Jenni. 2018. Maakuntien välillä on suuret terveyserot, ja se näkyy Kelan etuuksissahttp,” http://tutkimusblogi.kela.fi/arkisto/4743

Health

#17

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 healthcare resources. Also, Finland’s old-age dependency ratio is increasing substantially, although not as dramatically as in some other EU member states. 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. The Sipilä government initiated a major social and healthcare reform (SOTE) that would have shifted responsibility for social welfare and healthcare services from the municipalities to 18 larger governmental entities (counties). In addition, the planned reform envisioned giving patients greater freedom in choosing between public and private healthcare providers. However, as Sipilä failed to secure a majority in parliament for the healthcare reform, his government resigned in March 2019. Its successor, the Rinne government, signaled that would implement the reform, but this remained a subject of debate at the time of writing.

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

#10

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
8
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. As parts of its structural-reform packages, the Sipilä government implemented changes limiting the right to day care for children whose parents were unemployed. The center-left Rinne government that took office in June 2019 pledged to revoke this reform. The Rinne government also said it would increase the size of the allowances paid to single-parent families and families with more than three children.

Family policy remains somewhat 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 European Union, family policies have still not fully solved the challenge of combining parenting and employment. The fertility rate has fallen for eight years in a row, reaching an all-time low of 1.41 children per woman in 2018. Although the number of fathers that take paternity leave has somewhat increased, childcare 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 many 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. In general, evidence has shown that family-centered thinking is increasing among Finnish adults and within Finnish culture more generally.

The Rinne government indicated that it would develop a major family-policy reform aiming at a more equal distribution of care between mothers and fathers, a measure strongly supported by experts and academics. However, as was the case with the previous government, the Center Party – one of the members of the governing coalition – opposed abolishing or even shortening the home-care allowance that allows a parent to stay home until the child’s third birthday (with 95% of all home-care allowance days being taken by mothers in 2018). This hampered the prospects for an effective reform aiming at greater equality.

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.
https://www.stat.fi/til/synt/2018/synt_2018_2019-04-26_tie_001_fi.html

Pensions

#4

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 public pension system has two individual programs: a basic residence-based pension consisting of the national pension and the guarantee 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 through specific private pension schemes, regular 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 aging of Finland’s population and a rapid decrease in birth rates over recent years have together created problems in terms of labor-force maintenance and the fiscal sustainability of the pension system. Present strategies aim at encouraging later retirement in order to ensure that the state pension provides sufficient funding. In 2019, the Mercer Global Pension Index ranked Finland’s pension system as the fourth-best in the world, and as the world’s best with regard to administrative integrity and transparency.

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. Figures for 2018 show that the expected effective retirement age within the earnings-related pension system was 61.3 years, which was 0.1 year more than during the previous year. At present, Finland ranks in the middle of the EU’s member states in terms of the average age at which workers exit from the labor force, but the effective retirement age is expected to reach its target level of 62.4 years in 2025.

The government led by the SPD’s Antti Rinne proposed initiatives to enhance the old-age incomes of the poorest retirees, and passed the first gradual amendments to the national pensions. As a follow-up, the social partners were being called on to explore ways of increasing the lowest earnings-related pensions.

Citations:
Nicholas Barr, “The Pension System in Finland: Adequacy, Sustainability and Systems Design,” Finnish Center 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 Center for Pensions.
https://www.etk.fi/en/statistics-2/statistics/effective-retirement-age/
Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index 2019, https://www.mercer.com.au/our-thinking/mmgpi.html

Integration

#20

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 2018, the share of the population with a foreign background grew from 0.8% to 7.3%. 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 the labor-market participation rate was a key target of the government’s Future of Migration 2020 Strategy and 2016 Action Plan. While Finland has received a fair share of asylum-seekers on a per capita basis, the country is not considered to be among the top destinations for immigrants. This is the result of various factors. 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, until the summer of 2017, the Finns Party (then called the True Finns) used its cabinet position as a platform to fan anti-immigrant sentiments. Several demonstrations by anti-immigrant protesters against refugee accommodations turned violent. According to a recent poll, 47% of the population is in favor if immigration, whereas 41% is negatively disposed toward it. At the same time, however, attitudes are highly dependent on the country of origin of the immigrants in question. In general, respondents were much more positive toward immigration from the EU, North America and Asia than immigration from Africa and the Middle East.

Citations:
http://pxnet2.stat.fi/PXWeb/pxweb/sv/StatFin/StatFin__vrm__vaerak/statfin_vaerak_pxt_11rt.px/table/tableViewLayout1/
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 Center for Pensions, Studies 06/2016. Helsinki: Finnish Center for Pensions;
Elli Heikkilä and Selena Peltonen, “Immigrants and Integration in Finland,” Institute of Migration, Turku.
Kunnallisalan kehittämissäätiö: https://kaks.fi/uutiset/kaksi-viidesta-suomalaisesta-on-kielteinen-maahanmuutolle-tyontekijat-ja-opiskelijat-toivotetaan-tervetulleiksi/

Safe Living

#3

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.
Internal Security Policy
9
According to the 2019 Overseas Security Advisory Council (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. Finland remains among the safest countries in the world, with a very low crime rate. Still, as evident from the 2019 OSAC report, there has been an increase in the incidence of sexual offenses, drunk driving, robberies and narcotics-related offenses. 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, the 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 addressing organized crime, the informal economy and terrorism. Involving a collaboration between municipalities, regions, organizations, businesses and the public administration, preparations for a new national strategy outline were initiated in August 2016 and completed in April 2017. An implementation program 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.
“Finland 2019 Crime & Safety Report,” https://www.osac.gov/Content/Report/a07de0db-58c6-4954-a485-15f4aeaf1baa

Global Inequalities

#8

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
8
Development policy constitutes an integral part of Finland’s security and foreign policy. It focuses on four priorities: protecting the rights of women and girls; reinforcing developing countries’ economies as a means of generating more jobs while also improving livelihoods and well-being; supporting democratic and well-functioning societies, which includes ensuring taxation capacity; and supporting food security, access to water and energy, and sustainability in the use of natural resources. Due to severe strains on the Finnish economy, the Sipilä government was compelled to reduce the amount of humanitarian aid provided by the country. Whereas Finland spent €961.4 million on development cooperation in 2017, it spent only €886 million on this area in 2018. Nonetheless, €989 million was appropriated in 2019 for development cooperation, an increase of €103 million compared to the 2018 budget, and the Rinne government announced that this figure would subsequently be raised substantially. 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. Finland is committed to the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Sustainable Development Goals.

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. On the whole, the country is not counted among the world’s top aid initiators or agenda-setters, and in terms of advancing global social inclusion, Finland is a committed partner rather than a leader.

Citations:
“Finland’s Development Policy,” https://um.fi/documents/35732/0/Finlands+development+policy+2016.pdf/
Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, http://www.formin.fi/public/default.aspx?contentid=251855.
https://findikaattori.fi/en/69
https://um.fi/finland-s-development-cooperation-appropriations
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