Women’s Rights in Finland
Finland has a long history with gender equality, being the world’s first country to offer full political rights to women in 1906. Here are five facts about women’s rights in Finland, including landmark developments and where it needs to improve.

5 Facts About Women’s Rights in Finland

  1. Finland offers one of the most generous parental leave policies in all of Europe. A February 2020 policy granted seven months of paid leave for new mothers as well as one month of pregnancy allowance prior to their official leave. Non-biological parents have access to the same parental leave privileges while single parents receive a full 14 months of paid leave. This updated policy also extends the seven months of parental leave to fathers and allows parents to transfer up to 69 days from their seven-month allotment to the other parent. Gender-neutral parental leave policies are a crucial step toward gender equality by leveling the gap between conventionally male and female roles in society and relieving women of the tradition of them solely raising their children.
  2. Women in Finland enjoy high-quality education. In fact, Finland ranked first in the world in leveling the gender gap in educational attainment in 2018. The consistently high levels of education among women show this. Among those obtaining a university-level or post-graduate in 2012, the proportion of women was 60% and 50%, respectively. Moreover, the rate of female educational attainment is increasing rapidly and significantly outpacing that of men, as the share of women earning post-graduate degrees jumped from 15% in 1975 to 54% in 2012.
  3. Political institutions provide equal representation. Finland’s government has a history of pioneering gender equality, being the first parliament in the world to include female members of parliament. Finland elected its first female prime minister in 2003, and its third female prime minister, Sanna Marin, assumed office in December 2019. Marin leads a coalition government consisting of five parties, all of which have women under the age of 35 at the helm. Female representation in the nation’s 2019 election was especially notable, with a record number of women winning parliamentary seats, amounting to 47% of the parliament. As a result, Finland ranked sixth globally in political empowerment for women in 2018.
  4. Women dominate the labor market. Finland enjoys the highest labor participation rate of women worldwide and ranks among the best nations for working women. Moreover, the employment rate for Finnish women is higher than the European Union average. However, Finland needs to still make improvements, as women in the public and private sectors receive only 80% to 85% of their male counterparts’ earnings. Nonetheless, the gender pay gap has been steadily decreasing over the last two decades and expectations have determined that it should continue to decrease as a result of social welfare policies that allow women to reconcile family and work life.
  5. Finland is a victim of the “Nordic Paradox,” the trend where Scandinavian nations experience high rates of domestic violence despite promoting gender equality in economic and political life. The 2013 rate of intimate partner violence in Finland was nearly double the European average. Domestic violence rose 7% in 2019 with over 10,000 reported victims, more than half of which were between married couples. Finland has taken steps at the national level to address this trend, having adopted a National Gender Action Plan and trained about 200 federal judges in prosecuting cases involving violence against women. Moreover, crisis shelters and a free 24/7 helpline are available, with specialized investigators and law enforcement officials to address reports of violence. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare oversees these shelters, which also provide professional counseling and health services to customers.
  6. Migrant women are a major part of Finland’s equal rights agenda. Immigrant women with children experience an employment rate that is nearly 50% lower than that of their native-born counterparts, and social integration has posed a challenge for these communities. To address this issue, the Social Impact Bond emerged through institutional and private investment to assist immigrant women in finding employment within four months. Moreover, the national government finances public language programs to offer support to recent migrants learning the Finnish language.

Despite being a pioneer for women’s rights in Finland, the country still experiences its fair share of women’s issues. However, with a female-led government and strong social welfare policies, Finland’s progress is effectively ongoing and still serves as a model for the rest of the developed world.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Finland
Despite enjoying one of the world’s most advanced social-democratic welfare systems and the lowest human insecurity rates, there are still major struggles with poverty and hunger in Finland.

First Signs

The first signs of hunger in Finland emerged following a financial crisis in the 1990s which resulted in roughly 100,000 Finnish people reportedly hungry during the years 1992 and 1993. As a result, the foundation for a network of charity-based food aid provisions proliferated in Finland during the 1990s. Several spikes occurred in CFA rates in the late 1990s, with the largest increase at the turn of the century.

What is interesting about this particular response to food insecurity in Finland is that, in principle, the Nordic welfare state “is assumed to provide universal social security against social risks, such as poverty, for all its citizens.” However, at-risk people in Finland have received support largely through charity-based food aid, indicating that the current welfare state falls short of feeding everyone.

Giving Back

In 2013, EVIRA, the Finish Food Safety Authority, improved food safety regulations by allowing food and retail industries to donate food to charity with greater ease. This new food waste redistribution project was part of a new wave of social innovations in the greater E.U. which operated in efforts to reduce food insecurity and ecological waste.

As of 2014, the CFA in Finland had 400 distributors “including parishes, FBOs, unemployment organizations and other NGOs.” It reached roughly 22,000 Finnish people every week.

At-Risk Populations

Statistics Finland’s research shows that the number of people at risk for severe poverty and homelessness was 890,000 in 2017, which is roughly 16.4% of the population. Findings from the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) Poverty in Finland Report from 2019 show that the number of people living on minimum income benefits and experiencing livelihood problems such as food shortages continues to be a growing problem. The share of Finns turning to food banks every week was roughly 20,000 in 2019. The risk of poverty and malnutrition is highest amongst single mothers and older women living alone, according to the National Council of Women in Finland. Finland is also among one of the most racist countries in the E.U., making it even harder for migrants, especially women, to achieve success in the current economic climate. As a result, many migrants in Finland are poor and at risk of food insecurity.

A Hopeful Horizon

Progressive social reform strategies such as Finland’s Housing First strategy with the extensive food aid provision network in the country have the power to eradicate hunger in Finland. In fact, Finland’s Housing First strategy already accomplished a lot in regard to shelter insecurity in the country. Perhaps a stronger state role in providing food aid could be the extra push necessary to completely tackle the stagnating food insecurity problem.

Jasmeen Bassi
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Finland
For years, many have considered healthcare in Finland to be among the best in the world. This “decentralized, three-level, publicly funded” universal health care system is so successful because of its funding sources at both the national and local levels and because of the system’s focus on disease prevention.

While Finland’s healthcare system is similar to other Nordic countries in that it offers universal coverage, the Finnish system focuses more on the local care distributed through municipalities, with National Health Insurance. Organized and delivered primarily at the local level, much of Finland’s healthcare centers around municipalities. This decentralized system also serves to improve healthcare for each citizen. Currently, there are around 6,000 residents per municipality in Finland and 348 municipalities total. The municipal taxes these residents pay go directly towards their healthcare.

Efficient Funding

In 2015, Finland spent 9.4% of its GDP on health, which is an increase from 8% in 2005 but still falls slightly below the E.U. average of 9.9%. Nonetheless, health spending per capita in Finland exceeded the average in the E.U., meaning that Finland, on average, spends more on health per capita than other E.U. nations. This is an important consideration when understanding why Finland’s healthcare system is so successful: it spends less overall, but more on each individual citizen.

Better Resources

Physical and human resources help to drive health care prosperity in Finland. Since 2000, the number of doctors and nurses has risen dramatically. The ratio of nurses to population is the second-highest in the E.U. after Denmark while the ratio of doctors is 3.2 per 1,000 constituents. While the number of hospital beds has decreased, this allows Finland to have a “higher number of diagnostic and treatment equipment per capita” than other nations in the E.U., giving Finland some of the best-equipped hospitals in the E.U.

Changing Societal Behaviors and Attitudes

Beyond tangible improvements including funding and improved resources, societal attitudes around health have possibly allowed healthcare in Finland to succeed. Smoking rates have sharply fallen since 2000, becoming the third-lowest among all E.U. countries. Meanwhile, Finland had the fourth-highest rate of binge drinking, the rapid consumption of six or more alcoholic drinks, in the E.U. in 2014.

In 2014, Finland developed a goal of creating a Smoke-Free Finland by the year 2040 in order to reduce societal and behavioral risks. The country plans to accomplish this goal with a gradual increase in taxes on tobacco products as well as using unbranded packaging, making its products less tempting to the consumer. This goal will also involve the imposition of smoking bans in certain environments so as to encourage smokers to at least pause their behavior while in “smoke-free habitats,” like beaches, residential housing and playgrounds. In addition, the plan will offer better healthcare to those planning on quitting.

The government is working to reduce alcohol consumption as well. A state monopoly has made the availability of alcohol in grocery stores scarce, with 5.5% as the maximum alcohol-per-volume that stores can sell.

Preventative Measures

Finland’s efforts to prevent diseases, particularly long-term prevention of cardiovascular diseases, have served to greatly reduce premature mortality and increase life expectancies. Active community-based prevention in North Karelia, a province of Finland, began in 1972. Since 1977, active preventive work has spread nationwide. North Karelia’s community-based approach served as a model for the integrated prevention of noncommunicable diseases. It focused on intervention through education, changing others’ perceptions of target risk factors and good health behaviors nationwide. North Karelia saw drastic reductions in deaths from cardiovascular diseases and lower general cholesterol levels.

This decentralized system with a focus on cost-effectiveness and prevention of diseases enables Finland to have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Finland’s calculated spending on health and overall focus on the bettering of its society allows most citizens to have positive perceptions of health and of healthy behaviors. The access each citizen has to healthcare ensures that every Finnish person can receive care when they need it.

Olivia Fish
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in FinlandMany know Finland as one of the happiest countries around the world. Not only do people know Finland for the iconic Northern Lights, but they also consider it to be one of the least poverty-stricken countries in all of Europe. Finland has the fourth-lowest poverty rate in OCED countries and a Gini coefficient of .27, which is lower than the United States. Here are five facts about poverty in Finland.

5 Facts About Poverty in Finland

  1. Finland has a high quality of life. In fact, Finland has one of the highest quality of life scores in Europe. Its score of 8.2 out of 10 is higher than the average 7.4 rate in the European Union as of 2016. People are generally happier in Finland and the number has stayed consistent since 2003.
  2. Finland’s unemployment rate was approximately 7% as of 2018. This is a huge improvement over the last couple of years, where the unemployment rate was close to 10% in 2014. Since then, the unemployment rate has dropped to a little more than 6% as of January 2020. This number is significantly lower than Finland’s youth unemployment rate which was close to 17% in 2017, but it is a huge improvement from its 2016 youth unemployment rate of nearly 20%.
  3. Finland’s GDP per capita has been steadily increasing over the years. Finland’s GDP per capita has increased by over 8% from 2017 to 2018. Finland ranks as having one of the highest GDP per capita with numbers higher than countries including Canada, France and the United Kingdom.
  4. Finland’s education system has been improving since the 1970s. Finland ranks first out of all OCED countries on the PISA test. The PISA is an academic test in language, math and science that 15-year-old kids take internationally. Many attribute Finland’s successful education system to its investment in teachers’ education. Over half of Finland’s adult population finish some form of education which could be due to the fact that Finland’s government pays for close to 100% of the cost of education.
  5. Finland’s child poverty rate is one of the lowest in OCED countries. Finland has a child poverty rate of 4%, compared to the U.S. child poverty rate of 20%. This is due to Finland shifting welfare policies from local government to big government by providing mothers with public daycare and allowances for children under the age of 17. Finland’s child poverty rate is not only lower than the United States but also Germany, Sweden and Australia.

The probability of someone becoming poor in Finland is actually lower than the probability of them becoming poor in all of Europe. In 2016, the chance of someone in Finland being at risk of poverty was approximately 16% compared to 22% in the European Union as of 2019. Finland also has one of the highest Human Development Indexes (HDI) with a placement of number 12 out of 189 countries. Its HDI has been increasing for nearly two decades now and sits at a .925 as of 2018. One can attribute Finland’s success as a country to an increased life expectancy at birth since 1990, an increased number of expected and mean schooling since 1990 and an increase in its Gross National Income (GNP) per capita since 1990. These five facts about poverty in Finland show that overall, Finland is one of the most prosperous countries in Europe due to the exceptional education system, low poverty rate and an expanding economy.

– Hena Pejdah
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Helsinki
Helsinki is home to 50 percent of Finland’s homeless population. Still, the country is the only EU nation where homelessness is on the decline thanks to its Housing First program. Since the launch of the initiative in 2008, Finland has reduced the homeless population from 18,000 people in 1987 to 6,600 in 2017. Keep reading to learn more about this solution to addressing homelessness in Helsinki.

More Than Housing

The Housing First principle aimed to reverse the old standard of getting one’s life in order before having a house. Housing First was developed by a social scientist, a doctor, a politician and a bishop. These four individuals recognized the old way did not work and chose to shed light on areas that do.

Other establishments developed out of the Housing First endeavor, including the Y-Foundation and the Helsinki Deaconess Institute (HDI). The Y-Foundation is a program that offers affordable housing assistance to tenants, while the goal of the HDI is to help the homeless by doing away with night shelters and short-term hostels.

Nimi Ovessa

The four developers of Housing First aptly titled their proposal Nimi Ovessa, Finnish for “Your Name on the Door.” The title expressed their philosophy that housing should be non-negotiable. In Helsinki, the homeless population deals with addiction, mental health issues and medical conditions.

Housing First offers support to tenants ranging from access to education, training and work placements to recreation and basic life skills, all while providing them a home. Some Housing First establishments may ban alcohol, and some may not with certain restrictions. Counselors often work around the clock. For example, at Rukkila, a homeless hostel in Malminkartano, a suburb of Helsinki, there are seven staff members for 21 tenants.

Blueprint

Helsinki owns 60,000 social housing units. One in seven residents lives in city-owned housing. The city also owns 70 percent of the land within city limits. Each district includes a strict housing mix aimed at limiting social segregation. The housing mix includes 25 percent social housing, 30 percent subsidized purchase and 45 percent private sector. Furthermore, tenants in social housing do not have a mandated capped income.

The developers of Housing First have exceeded their initial goal of building 2,500 new homes to 3,500. The municipality, state and NGOs all back the program. With all of this support, the program was able to buy flats, build new blocks and convert old shelters into permanent and comfortable homes.

Progress and Cost/Benefit Ratio

In Helsinki, homelessness decreased to 35 percent, with 1,345 people now off the streets. Rough sleeping is almost non-existent, and there is only one 50-bed night shelter remaining. This is good news for street sleepers who have endured deadly winter temperatures as low as -7C° (19F°). “If you’re sleeping outside [in the middle of winter], you might die,” said Thomas Salmi, a tenant at a housing facility in Helsinki. Deputy Mayor Sanna Vesikansa, who witnessed a large number of homeless people in Helsinki as a child, said, “We hardly have that any more [sic]. Street sleeping is very rare now.”

Since 2008, Housing First has spent over 250 million euros in creating new homes and hiring staff. Meanwhile, Helsinki has seen savings upward of 15,000 euros a year in emergency healthcare, social services and the justice system. In 2018, some tenants moved out of Rukilla, able to live independent lives. The benefits outweigh the cost.

Eradicating homelessness in Helsinki is far from complete. However, the major reduction in long-term homelessness must be applauded. Helsinki has proven when authorities are fully committed, positive change can occur.

– Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Finland

There is much to love about the country of Finland. It’s combined geography of scenic seaside towns and expansive forests, along with rich history and unique architecture, make it a naturally attractive travel spot. But it seems to offer even more to those who call it their home. Finland is consistently cited as a model for health and happiness, with studies consistently ranking it as one of the best places to live and heralding its’ social services as some of the finest in the world. There can be some benefit in looking at what this country is doing right, and how its’ successes might be applicable elsewhere.

10 facts about life expectancy in Finland.

  1. Finland led the World Happiness Report in 2018: The World Happiness Report ranks 156 countries on the happiness of their citizens based on collective surveys, and Finland has continually been in the top five, even taking the top spot in 2018.
  2. Finland has one of the lowest maternal mortality rates: This is one of Finland’s most notable successes and one that can be seen as a gauge to the health of the country and quality of life overall. Finland offers maternity packages to new mothers that include necessary supplements and even a bed for the child, along with free clinic visits and social services before and after the pregnancy.
  3. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the unexplained death of a seemingly healthy baby during sleep, is extremely rare in Finland: There were only six deaths from SIDS in Finland in 2015. Part of the credit for this goes to interventions such as advising the avoidance of parents sleeping in the same bed as their baby and, as mentioned above, even providing baby’s first bed to enable this. 
  4. The Finnish government negotiates the cost of medicines: A list of ten facts about life expectancy in Finland would be remiss without mentioning its’ most well-known success story, its healthcare. To anyone in the U.S., this particular aspect of Finnish healthcare may seem almost unimaginable, but in Finland, large pharmaceutical companies do not have the same pull as they do in the U.S.
  5. The average life expectancy is 81.4: To put this in perspective; its’ neighbor Russia’s life expectancy is a full decade lower, at 71.5.
  6. Finland has experienced a major increase in life expectancy for men: While women’s life expectancy has also continued to increase in the country, men have made the greatest jump in recent years. In the past three decades, the life expectancy for men increased by eight years and for women, by five and a half.
  7. Children receive free school meals: This critical but often overlooked element of grade school education is a major and necessary benefit to ensure every student can put their focus on learning. Save the Children has ranked Finland as the third-best country for children.
  8. Finland has made progress in driving down cardiovascular diseases: While alcohol-related illness and obesity remain major challenges for the country, the number of heart disease-related deaths has gone down, due in no small part to a reduction in tobacco use. From 2000 to 2014, the number of adults who use tobacco in Finland went down by a full 8 percent. In addition to bans on public smoking and regulating sales, Finland hopes to completely ban tobacco by 2040.
  9. Finland has a lower housing cost than all of its’ neighboring countries: Though some of the more densely populated areas of the country (such as Helsinki) can be more expensive, the country as whole houses its citizens more cheaply, which in turn drives down the cost of healthcare and everything else.
  10. Finland has the lowest wage inequality in the EU: Wage inequality is a detriment to workers in any place it exists. Workers in the highest financial bracket in Finland earn 2.7 times more than those in the lowest. Take Estonia for perspective on this, where the highest earners make more than five times those in the lowest bracket.

Mike Gates
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Line Breakdown
Over three billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, showing that poverty remains a top global issue. Every country has a poverty line, which is the level of personal or family income below which one is considered poor by government standards. While there are a handful of countries with extreme poverty, there are others that have maintained the poverty line within their country.

Poverty Rates

According to the Huffington Post, factoring poverty rates is a mixture of art and science. When coming up with a country’s poverty line, the measurement of wealth and distribution has to coincide with the cost of living rates or price purchase parity adjustments. In other words, someone who may be perceived as poor in the United States can be considered wealthy in another country. The global quantification of extreme poverty is categorized differently than middle- and upper-income countries.

Countries with the Highest Poverty Line

  • The Dominican Republic of Congo: Despite the most recent decrease in DRC’s poverty rate, 71 percent in 2005 to 64 percent in 2012, the DRC remains one of the poorest countries in the world. The United Nations has estimated that 2.3 million people living in the DRC are poor and living in refugee camps. Due to the detrimental political corruption, the people of DRC continue to suffer for minimal necessities. The nutritional statistics of DRC are extremely low and health conditions are severe. Stunting, wasting, immunization coverage, drinking water conditions and diseases are just a few examples of matters that need to be taken seriously to solve these conditions.
  • The Central African Republic: As of 2008, the poverty rate for the Central African Republic stood at 66.3 percent and not much has changed. Although this is a healthy decrease from 84.3 percent in 1992, a majority of the countries’ population lives on less than $1.90 per day. To many, the Central African Republic may appear to be the land of diamonds, but it remains one of the poorest countries in Africa and the world. With a low population count of five million people, most of them are living without food, sanitation and decent housing. Every year, the Central African Republic only brings in $750. The Central African Republic’s issues reside from civil conflict, diseases and lack of infrastructure for schools and jobs. With minimal annual income, jobs are scarce and in high demand.

Countries with the Lowest Poverty Line

  • Finland: With a low poverty rate of 5.5 percent, Finland has one of the lowest poverty lines in decades, although the risk of poverty for many residing in Finland is the highest it’s ever been. There’s a secret to Finland’s success story: employment, education and parenting take priority. In addition, Finland is committed to improving education and healthcare. It is generous with welfare and possesses a low infant mortality rate, good school test scores and an extremely low poverty rate. Finland is considered the second happiest country on earth, falling second to the United States.
  • The Czech Republic: About 9.7 percent of the Czech Republic’s population live below the poverty line. Of all the European Union member states, Czech has the lowest amount of people threatened by poverty. In comparison to the average rate of 17 percent for the eurozone, Czech is doing pretty well for itself. Czech’s high-income economy is primarily based on the revenue it receives from its auto industry. This still remains its largest single industry, accounting for 24 percent of Czech’s product manufacturing. Czech’s wealth is due to its successful trading system.

Poverty lines will continue to be a global issue until countries ally to reduce the gap in socioeconomic status. Without the rich, there would be no poor. Even within impoverished areas of the world, there are different levels of poverty and what one can afford. Unity and prioritizing citizen’s needs is a necessity to promote change in poverty lines.

 – Kayla Sellers 

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Finland
Today, Finland has a reputation for one of the lowest poverty rates in the world, and thousands of Finns live below the poverty level. These top 10 facts about poverty in Finland will help put into perspective the socio-economic issues Finland faces today.

Facts About Poverty in Finland

  1. Finland’s poverty rate is 5.8 percent, based on a 50 percent threshold of the average income from the OECD’s most recent report. In recent years, the at-risk-of-poverty percentage hit its peak in 2008 at 13.9 percent but dropped to 11.7 percent by 2015. Finland’s low poverty rate is right behind Denmark’s and not too far from the other Nordic countries.
  2. In 2016, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) reported approximately 400,000 people — or 8 percent — of the Finnish population live underneath Finland’s minimum budget of 669 euros.
  3. Finland’s welfare system is based on the Nordic model, which emphasizes socio-economic equality. In turn, Finland strives to maintain a financial safety net for its citizens and reduce poverty. Politicians such as Bernie Sanders have used the Nordic model as an example to propose solutions to inequality in the U.S.
  4. Finns hold an unusually high amount of trust in each other, and tend to be more willing to pay high taxes needed for the nation’s welfare system. According to a recent Eurobarometer study, more than 80 percent of Finns say that they trust other Finns; this percentage is higher than in any other country in Europe.
  5. As of 2014, the child poverty rate in Finland was 3.6 percent. Child poverty tends to be lower in countries that spend a high percentage of their GDP on social programs, so Nordic countries including Finland possess some low poverty rates.
  6. The shortage of affordable housing ails low-income people and the homeless. One of the largest contributing factors to poverty in Finland is expensive housing costs, especially in urban areas. However, programs like Housing First help ensure that Finns have someplace to live, even at their lowest, most desperate moments. The program is funded by the government and has housed previously homeless Finns for extended periods of time.
  7. Low-income individuals and families have trouble accessing proper social and health services because of growing customer fees. Finland spends 8.6 percent of its GDP on healthcare, which is below the OECD average of 8.9 percent.
  8. In recent years, the number of unemployed immigrants has reached between 2 to 5 times more than that of the average Finn. As a result, more than 50 percent of immigrant households in Finland live in poverty. To combat immigrant unemployment rates, the European Investment Fund recently allotted 10 million euros for an experiment by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment that aims to provide skilled labor jobs for 2,500 unemployed immigrants.
  9. In January 2017, Finland became one of the first countries to start a universal basic income (UBI) experiment. Each month, they gave a stipend of approximately $680 to 2,000 unemployed people living below the poverty level. In theory, the experiment poses a potential solution to eliminating poverty within the country by providing enough money for each citizen to live frugally — regardless of social class. The experiment is set to end in December 2018, and the results of the experiment have not yet been released.
  10. In line with the Europe 2020 Strategy, Finland aims to lower the number of people living in poverty or social exclusion to 770,000 by 2020. According to Statistics Finland, currently 849,000 people live in poverty or social exclusion.

Poverty & Perseverance

Even with Finland’s success combatting poverty in comparison to other world powers, any trend of rising poverty or other negative living conditions within a nation is a continued concern. Finland will continue to experiment with other social programs for the financial security of its people, and hopefully the number of unemployed and impoverished will continue to decrease as a result of these efforts.

– Jessica Reyes
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Finland

In America, Finland (along with its fellow Scandinavian nations) is often portrayed as a utopia bereft of human suffering and a model for the rest of the world. The simple truth, however, is that economic troubles in Finland are real, and the nation has had its own set of struggles in the wake of the Great Recession.

The Finnish labor market has experienced three recessions since the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Business Insider reports that Finland suffered the worst economic contraction of any Eurozone nation during that same crisis. The country’s public debt doubled to more than 60 percent of its GDP by 2015.

According to Eurostat, as of August 2017, Finland’s unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent. That number is not bad, but could be better. Today, 35 percent of Finland’s unemployed are long-term unemployed, representing a significant challenge for the nation as a whole.

However, the potential for these issues to cause poverty and hunger in Finland has been mitigated by the nation’s public welfare system. No one in Finland lives below the international poverty line due to a wide net of benefits covering both the young and the old. According to OECD data, the poverty rate ratio is only 0.04. Social spending at 30.8 percent of GDP and a well-funded, efficient public schooling system undoubtedly contribute to these successes. And there are other innovative ideas as well.

Those who pay close attention to American politics will know that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently revealed that she considered running on a platform of universal basic income, a plan she scrapped because she could not make the numbers work. Earlier this year, the Finnish government started a test run for that very same idea.

Finland’s idea was to give 2,000 Finns ages 25 to 28 who had been unemployed for a year or more, or had less than six months of work experience, a monthly subsidy of €560 for two years, regardless of whether they found work.

However, after a government pushing austerity came to power, the trial size was cut to one-fifth of the original plan, making it too small to be scientifically useful, and regular social programs were scaled back, making it even more difficult to measure the program’s effects. The program may or may not help alleviate poverty and encourage economic growth, but it will be hard to know given the small sample size and lack of controls. Still, the presence of ideas like this show a healthy willingness to experiment by trial and error.

Earlier this year, the Finnish central bank affirmed that Finland finally seems to be emerging from the Great Recession. The bank forecasts that this year will see exports recover and GDP growth reach 1.3 percent, in part due to the Competitiveness Pact signed last year. Strong social programs, powered by economic activity inherent in free and open markets, will hopefully keep poverty and hunger in Finland at a historic low.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in FinlandFinland has a population of about 5.5 million, and is seated next to Sweden and Norway. Human rights in Finland are ultimately made a priority by the country’s government, and this country is considered more progressive than most, although there are still a few areas that could be improved.

According to a report from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Nordic country strives to dedicate time and attention to minorities in the country, including the Roma, linguistic or religious minorities and other ethnic minorities. On the other hand, the report also states that residents who belong to multiple of these minority groups are typically “the most vulnerable to human rights violations.” Finland promotes openness in respect to human rights policy and works toward “effective empowerment of the civil society,” according to the same report.

Human rights in Finland are also supported by nongovernment organizations in the region. In addition, human rights defenders work with minority groups. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs states that, “the key message is to encourage and urge the Ministry’s entire staff to collaborate actively with human rights defenders.”

Finland prioritizes areas including women’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of sexual and gender minorities, the rights of indigenous peoples and economic, social and cultural rights, according to the report. Regarding the rights of sexual minorities, in March of this year, Finland became the 13th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Watch.

While human rights in Finland are heavily prioritized, there are still areas in need of improvement.

The U.S. Department of the State reports that human rights problems in Finland include the failure of police to provide detainees with timely access to legal council, “questionable” donations and contributions to political campaigns and violence against women and members of the LGBT community.

The report also included information on issues surrounding the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. It stated that survivors seeking justice have encountered many obstacles with respect to their interactions with police and judicial officials. However, it also stated that police and government officials strongly encourage victims to report rapes through “various public awareness campaigns.”

While human rights in Finland have a few shortcomings, they are one of the more progressive nations in Europe, meaning that further progress is certainly possible.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr