Key Challenges

Untallied costs for pandemic
The total social, mental and economic costs of the COVID‐19 crisis on Finland are still unknown. Finland was hit hard by a fourth wave of the pandemic in late 2021 and early 2022.
Unemployment rates remain high
Unemployment rates have increased as a consequence of the crisis response and remain high. Decision-making powers have been centralized, and the government adopted a virological and epidemiological perspective on health matters that has been associated with social and mental health costs.
Concentration of power
at national level
The response to the perceived risks associated with COVID-19 have entailed a concentration of power at the national level. It has also entailed the strengthening of the authority of health policy experts. A major challenge in the future will therefore be to restore the pre-crisis democratic order in which the government was responsible for proposing new legislation and executing existing legislation.
Deficit-reduction goals
out of reach
Another challenge relates to public finances. Unlike other Nordic countries, Finland had a deficit even before the COVID-19 crisis. Sanna Marin’s government program was based on the expectation that the labor market participation rate would increase. However, the participation rate dropped and public expenditure has increased considerably. The participation rate increased in 2021, but the public deficit goals predating the pandemic were at this point out of reach.
New ideas on
welfare needed
COVID-19 has constituted an opportunity for economic policy learning, and the Finnish government has taken the opportunity to review past commitments to austerity as the international consensus has shifted away from mechanical cuts in public spending. Even before COVID-19, there was widespread debate regarding the political, economic and environmental sustainability of the neoliberal model of economic policy. This debate should continue, because new ideas about how to produce, maintain and redistribute welfare in our societies are needed.
Trust is key in
mitigating health risks
The management of the epidemic showed that lockdowns and compulsory, strong restrictions on civil rights produce polarization within the population between compliers and non-compliers. In the future, governments should do their utmost to seek broad support for measures to manage health risks in order to facilitate trust and cooperation among the population.

Party Polarization

Low levels of party polarization
In comparative terms, the level of party polarization is low in Finland. In general, Finnish governments are coalition governments, often made up of parties from both the left and right. The Sanna Marin government fit well into this tradition, as it encompassed five parties representing a broad ideological spectrum, at least in a nominal sense. The most extreme example of a broad coalition in recent decades was seen when Jyrki Katainen formed a cabinet in 2011, consisting of six parties including the far-left Left Alliance, the Green Party and Katainen’s conservative National Coalition Party. The Sipilä government (2015 – 2019), however, constituted an exception to this rule, as it was made up only of three center-right parties.
Divide between nationalists and elite
As with many other European countries, Finland has experienced polarization between political elites and nationalistic populist elements. This development became even more pronounced after the establishment of a coalition government dominated by center-left parties, each led by a woman, in 2019.
Cross-party cooperation possible
As of the time of writing, the ruling cabinet in Finland consisted of a coalition of five major parties, which together commanded a clear majority in the parliament. There were basically only three parties in the opposition. Party polarization did not undermine the ability to engage in cross-party cooperation for the purposes of crisis management during first wave of the pandemic in Finland. The ruling cabinet was able to build consensus and cross-party cooperation.
Olive branch for opposition
In April 2020, the prime minister made an announcement in which she thanked the opposition for its cooperation: “It has been very valuable for Finland that all of our parliamentary parties have been able to cooperate extensively to enable the rapid introduction of restrictive measures. I would particularly like to thank the opposition parties for their constructive cooperation in dealing with this national crisis. The government has sought to keep the parliamentary groups informed and has discussed the situation and measures regularly with all groups. We want to continue to do so” (Prime Minister Marin’s Announcement 2020). The political climate became more polarized during autumn 2020. The development continued well into 2021. However, there were no major conflicts between the ruling parties and the opposition even then. (Score: 9)
Finnish Business and Policy Forum, 2020. Coronan and Politicial Views. Finnish Business and Policy
Forum (EVA). Accessed, 28.12. 2020.
impact- on-finnish-political-views/
Heikkilä, Heikki, 2020. Finland: Coronavirus and the media. Blog. Accessed, 28.12. 2020.
Prime Minister’s Announcement, 2020. Corona Crisis Management. Accessed, 28.12. 2020.
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