Finland’s Foreign Aid
On Monday, April 3, 2023, Finland’s Prime Minister and the world’s former youngest state leader Sanna Marin conceded electoral defeat after her Social Democratic Party (SDP) came in third place to the center-right National Coalition Party (NCP) and the nationalist Finns Party. NCP leader Petteri Orpo is set to be the next prime minister and state leader, as Marin steps aside from her role as party leader. Under her, Finland had a steadfast commitment to the U.N.’s 2030 agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that aim to end global poverty and create a safer and fairer world. Here is some information about Marin’s record on international development, the fallout from this recent election and what it might mean for Finland’s foreign aid budget.

Foreign Aid Under Marin

Marin has governed as prime minister since 2019 as the leader of the SDP. During this time, she has overseen an increase in the amount Finland spends on fighting poverty in developing nations. In 2018, Finland spent 0.36% of its gross national income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance (ODA). This had increased to 0.47% of GNI by 2021.

A core priority of Finland’s foreign aid is to promote the rights of girls and women worldwide. This is in line with the U.N.’s SDG number 5. Finland has historically been at the forefront of political gender equality. It was the first European country to grant women voting rights. It was also the first in the world to allow them to stand as candidates.

Finland’s proud history of championing women’s rights manifests in its support for women and girls around the world facing extreme poverty. In 2020 Finland spent more than $220 million to promote gender equality and female empowerment in developing nations. As the U.N.’s SDG number 5 has decried, the empowerment of women is not just a basic human right – it is also an incredible catalyst for economic growth and development.

Party Positions

Despite the progress made under Marin, the SDP’s opponents have shown less enthusiasm toward Finland’s humanitarian commitments.

The campaign of the center-right NCP won 20.6% of the vote. It was fought on the promise of reducing government spending and debt. In second place, with 20.1% of the vote, was the nationalist Finns Party. They had previously stated their desire to cut Finland’s foreign aid spending by at least €200 million.

The last time the NCP and the Finns Party were in government together, from 2015 to 2019, they reduced Finland’s spending on foreign aid. However, during the administration’s final year, they began to reverse their cuts to ODA. The Social Democrats embraced this trend.

The third-placed SDP remained committed to increasing the amount Finland spends on international development, campaigning on a promise to keep Finland on the path toward spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA.

Hope for the Future

There remains uncertainty as to whether the far-right Finns Party will constitute the government. The SDP may have come in third place but with 19.9% of the vote, their popularity remains high. It is not unforeseeable that they enter into a coalition government with Orpo’s NCP.

As the biggest party, the NCP will take the lead in attempting to form a new coalition government. They may not share the same enthusiasm for ODA as the SDP, but their party platform confirms its commitment to assisting developing nations and lifting people out of extreme poverty.

In the wake of Marin’s departure, there remains hope that Finland’s history of supporting the world’s poorest will continue. Marin’s time as prime minister reinforced Finland’s global reputation as a leading light in the fight for gender equality and the mission to end global poverty.

– Henry Jones
Photo: Flickr


Finland’s Sand Battery
Kankaanpää, a small town in Western Finland, is using sand to store heat from renewable energy sources to provide homes with better and more cost-effective heating during winter. Finland’s sand battery is the first of its kind to be fully functional and comprises thousands of cubic meters of sand. The sand battery may replace some of the energy drawn from the power grid and provide heating throughout the five-month-long Finnish winters.

How it Works

Polar Night Energy developed this sand battery and installed it at a power plant site that Vatajankoski, a green energy supplier in Kankaanpää, Finland, operates. It consists of a “4 x 7-meter steel container” that holds hundreds of tons of sand. Using renewable energy, the sand heats to about 500 degrees Celsius before it is “stored for use in the local district heating system,” said Energy Storage News.

The battery uses builder’s sand, which is a kind of rough and ready grain that stands as a cost-efficient power storing apparatus during times of need. The sand itself is heated using green, renewable power, mainly solar panels and wind turbines. The sand battery will bring the citizens of Kankaanpää, and soon all Finns, a better, greener, more cost-effective heating system, especially now that the war in Ukraine is affecting the importing of gas and electricity.

The Impact of Russia’s Halt on Energy Supplies

In a 2020 poll asking Finns about heating costs, 38% of Finnish consumers said their household’s heating costs represent a noteworthy economic difficulty and many other consumers reported “compromising their living comfort to save money on heating.” More so, most of Finland’s gas and energy comes via imports from the surrounding countries, mainly Russia. However, in May 2022, Russia halted both its gas and electricity supplies to Finland.

The first halt of the electricity supply came shortly after Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. After these sanctions, Russia declared that all “unfriendly” countries wanting to continue receiving supplies of electricity and gas from Russia would have to pay using the Russian ruble, “a move the EU considers blackmail,” said the BBC.

As Finland deliberated joining NATO, Russia halted the supply of electricity to Finland and even threatened retaliatory action if Finland applies to join NATO. Then, on May 21, 2022, after Finland applied to join NATO, the Russian energy utility Gazprom affirmed it fully terminated any exports of goods to Finland. This halt also came after payment disagreements between the two countries due to Finland declining to make payments for gas in Russian currency.

Thus, since Finland gets most of its gas from Russia, concerns have risen “over sources of heat and light, especially with the long, cold Finnish winter on the horizon,” the BBC reports. Nonetheless, Finland’s state-owned gas and electricity companies confirmed that they will continue importing gas into the system through the Balticconnector entry point. The nation has plans to bring Finland’s sand battery technology to a larger, nationwide scale in the coming months, which may alleviate the heating expenses in the coming winter.

The Potential Benefits

Bringing Finland’s sand battery in Kankaanpää to such a large scale would make a great difference but it would come with certain challenges. For example, due to the nature of the technology, Finnish researchers have yet to find a way to keep efficiency from falling whenever the “sand is used to just return power to the electricity grid.”

But, even with these obstacles, the storing of this green energy long-term represents a significant opportunity for Finland’s textile, food and pharmaceutical industries that traditionally rely on fossil fuels. Due to power stations operating for several hours during the coldest months of winter, heating is “extremely expensive,” said Elina Seppänen, an energy and climate specialist, to the BBC.

Finland’s sand battery could be the solution to the heating problem and provide a more flexible way of using and storing heat that “would help a lot in terms of expense” while contributing to Finland’s transition toward more renewable sources of gas and electricity.

– Marcela Agreda L.
Photo: Flickr

Finland’s Tech Workers
The electronics and technology development industry is one of the largest employers of the Finnish workforce. Finland’s tech workers are fighting for higher wages and in December 2021, they got their guaranteed wage increase after threatening a strike.

The Importance of Finland’s Tech Industry

Finland’s tech industry is the country’s largest and most profitable export industry. It also has the biggest workforce for Finland too. The information and technology sector alone employs 6.8% of the workforce, making it the largest tech industry in the European Union. Directly and indirectly, up to 27% of Finland’s workers receive their income from the tech industry.

Finland’s tech industry also brings in €18 billion in taxes and earns €5 billion annually in investments for private and public technology companies. In 2020, the lowest amount that the tech industry earned, which was in the consulting sector, was €5 billion. The highest amount earned and contributed to the Finnish economy was €33 billion from the mechanical engineering sector.

Production and work in Finland’s tech industry slowed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unemployment rate in 2020 peaked at just above 11.2% but has since declined and dropped to 9%. As the tech workers have realized their importance, they have begun a fight for better wages to increase their pay and move away from being at risk of poverty.

A Finnish Tech Worker’s Need for Higher Wages

Finland’s tech industry workers earn around €3,900 per month. The starting salary is approximately €3,000 in the tech industry, with a slightly higher starting pay for those who graduate with a degree relating to the tech industry in any way. The lowest-paid industry workers in Finland are data professionals.

The cost of living has been rising dramatically in Finland since 2015. Making Finland an often expensive place to live, Finland’s tech workers feel their wages should increase as well to accommodate the rising costs. Finland’s tech industry employees felt their employers undervalued their work and as a result, felt underpaid. Salaries began to slowly rise in 2018, but the increase in wages has not kept pace with rising prices and the necessity for increased wages in 2021 and 2022. The need for higher salaries has caused Finland’s tech industry workers to formally organize a potential 10-day strike to force their employers to provide raises.

Impacts of the Workers’ Victory

At the end of 2021, more than 40,000 Finnish tech workers agreed to a formal strike if they were not assured of a “significant” increase in wages. The Finnish Industrial Union, which covers the tech industry workers, promised the strike and announced the withdrawal of the formal strike within a week.

According to Yle, the agreement reached includes an increase of 2% across the union for all workers. The union covers 90,000 workers at least. The increase must be agreed to by the end of November 2022 and swiftly enacted before 2023.

When Finland’s tech industry workers have fought for wage increases in the past, they have almost always won. Their victories have led workers in other business sectors to push for their wage increases with similar successes.

The service sector is one of the more underpaid sectors in Finland, with the industry workers earning between a third and a half of the average salary that workers in the tech industry do. The significant gap in wages and the victory for Finland’s tech industry workers could lead other groups to push for increased wages so that they can keep pace with rising prices and the costs of the standard of living. Finland’s tech industry workers started a movement for higher wages and more strikes are bound to take place in the coming months.

As long as more Finnish workers begin fighting for higher wages, the poverty and at-risk-of-poverty rates can drop. Increased wages across industries can increase general demand for services and goods and generate economic growth nationwide.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Finland
The United Nations has ranked Finland as one of the happiest countries on earth for the last eight years. Praised around the world for its low inequality, high employment rate, successful education system and overall high living standards, it is hard to believe that poor mental health is something that plagues the small Nordic country. Here is some information about mental health in Finland.

Mental Health in Finland

Mental illness affects roughly one in every five Finnish people. This is higher than the European average and has a particular effect on the country’s younger population. Due to the country’s global reputation as the happiest country on earth, young people feel less inclined to speak up about their struggles, some even feel that their struggles are invalid due to where they live.

Mental health in Finland is not a new issue. The country dealt with dramatically high suicide rates in the 80s and 90s. This led to the creation of the National Suicide Prevention Project in 1986. The Project focused on preventing suicide by strengthening mental health services throughout the country, educating the media on reporting suicides and improving public conversation on mental health. The project was extremely successful as the country’s suicide rates decreased by 50% since 1990.

Although the country’s approach to mental health improved over the last four decades, people in Finland continue to suffer. Fear of stigmatization regarding mental health is increasing as others continue to paint the country as the land of no worries. Officials recognize this growing issue and have proposed a new Suicide Prevention Plan for 2020-2030. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare partnered with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health to create a list of objectives for the coming decade. Here is a list of its objectives.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare’s List of Objectives

  1. Raising Awareness: The Finnish government aims to raise awareness about mental health and improve public dialogue by training community members to break down prejudices and provide suicide prevention education to the general public. Trained community members would include teachers, police officers, social workers, school counselors, youth workers, pastors and more.
  2. Reduced Accessibility to Means of Suicide: This objective includes improved planning of infrastructure including buildings, bridges and railways to include suicide preventative architecture. This objective also focuses on creating regulation for the storage of toxic substances, prescription drugs and firearms.
  3. Early Intervention: The Finnish government has put particular emphasis on the importance of addressing mental health during the early stages. This objective focuses on improving telephone helplines to be more inclusive. It also will create online help-centers and offer better educational support to those experiencing non-emergency effects of mental illness.
  4. Inclusivity for High-Risk Groups: This objective aims to create suicide prevention programs that are specific to high-risk groups, including the LGBTQ+ community, those living in poverty, asylum seekers, indigenous people, those suffering from substance abuse and victims of violence. The goal is to make individuals feel heard instead of creating blanketed campaigns that do not address any specific issues.
  5. Improved care options. This objective focuses on Finland’s healthcare system and the care options given to those suffering from mental illness. This includes advancements in online outreach programs and training for healthcare providers to identify signs of mental illness. Furthermore, it establishes emergency care for those at risk of committing suicide and assistance for families affected by suicide.

Mental health in Finland is a serious issue. It cannot afford to be brushed off by the reputation of the happiest country on earth. The Finnish Government does not wish to hide the country’s problems behind this title. It would rather live up to it. Through this new program, the people of Finland anticipate a more inclusive future and a public conversation that embraces the ups and downs of mental health instead of ignoring them.

– Kendall Couture
Photo: Flickr

Finland's Foreign Aid
Rankings and dollar signs are typically what one can use to compare a country’s contributions to foreign aid against the next. However, what is not present in those comparisons and dollar signs is the context and structure behind the contributions of these countries. The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) ranked Finland number 19 out of 30 countries because it provides only $1.08 billion in aid. This ranking is consistent across the board showing Finland as one of the lowest contributors of foreign aid, however, Finland’s foreign aid contributions include quality standards that every country should mimic to get the most out of their contributions.

Finland’s Goal Regarding Foreign Aid

Finland’s long-term overarching goal is not simply to help countries in need but also to free those countries from their dependency on aid and provide each country it contributes to with the ability to flourish. This goal puts Finland in a position to use the idea of quality over quantity when it decides its foreign aid budget and what country will benefit the most from Finland’s foreign aid contributions. Finland’s foreign aid policies follow a strict set of criteria that helps to guide and direct small but potent decisions. The Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Finland has spelled out the four driving components to criteria for foreign aid contributions within Finland’s Development policy.

4 Driving Forces Behind Finland’s Foreign Aid

  1. Strengthening the Status and Rights of Women and Girls: Finland intends to improve the rights of women and girls across the globe and promote gender equality. In fact, Finland is one of the largest contributors to UN Women, after giving the organization 10 million euros in 2016.
  2. Strengthening the Economic Base in Developing Countries and Creating Jobs: Without a strong economy, a country may have limited jobs, so it is crucial for Finland to actively participate in the rebuilding or strengthening of that economy. Finland seeks out partnerships and opportunities to promote the creation of jobs and strengthen the countries’ trade environments. In a three-year span of time, between 2016 and 2019, Finland contributed over $500 million in investments and loans to support sustainable development. Finland’s investment in Somalia went solely toward economic infrastructure and electricity distribution as well as the private sector. This contribution should provide valuable stepping stones to help Somalia rebuild and sustain the resources available to it.
  3. Education, Well-Functioning Societies and Democracy: Finland stands by its rule of law to provide a safe and peaceful environment, sustainable resources and public services to its population. Moreover, it extends those values to other countries. In fact, 57% of Finland’s foreign aid goes to fragile states in order to promote stability and security.
  4. Environmental Challenges and Natural Resources: Finland also aims to offer reliable access to safe and clean water and better water and land resources. It also intends to promote better farming conditions, forest management and decreased risk of hygiene-related diseases. It has implemented sanitation projects in Nepal, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Kenya and more.

Examples of Finland’s Foreign Aid Projects

Finland’s foreign aid contributions have centered around rural development, food security and land tenure in Africa and Asia. Again, while Finland’s contributions may not evenly compare to other countries’ contributions, they directly align with its overarching goal of creating opportunities for countries to build and sustain their own resources. As a result, those countries might be able to enter a position to sustain themselves.

Another great example of Finland’s contributions is its investment in water supply and sanitation programs. Access to clean water and food is a worldwide issue and Finland is aiming to alleviate those issues in Ethiopia, Kenya and Nepal. Ethiopia and Nepal were among the top five recipients of Finland’s foreign aid in 2015. Finland has dedicated itself to providing support to countries that have the highest need for funds. In Vietnam, Finland contributed to the urban water supply and sewage system, helping those countries achieve self-sufficiency and providing them with consistent access to the sources they need.

These programs and resources are only effective if they can occur over the long term. This is why Finland’s foreign aid contributions focus on programs that support rule of law and political systems. For example, Finland gave Afghanistan $3.2 million between 2016 and 2019 to broaden “civic engagement” and help foster an environment where the people participate more closely with the decision-making process of Afghanistan’s government.

Concluding Thoughts

Individually, each criterion above may seem like an impossible mountain to climb, but for Finland, these are simply the small but potent foundational steps necessary to create and sustain an efficient, profitable and sustainable economy. Finland’s foreign aid contributions may seem like only a small blip on the radar compared to the contributions that the United States and other larger countries are making, but it is blazing a trail to ensure that the funds, no matter how big or small they are, can make a powerful contribution to countries in need.

– Janell Besa
Photo: Flickr

2020 Afghanistan Conference
On November 23, 2020, and November 24, 2020, the governments of Afghanistan and Finland and the United Nations hosted the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva. The Conference is a quadrennial summit that serves as a chance for the international community to renew its long-term assistance commitments to Afghanistan. Seventy countries and 30 international organizations participated in this COVID-19-conscious summit at the UN Palais des Nations. The groups discussed the ways in which Afghanistan can develop economically, politically and socially. Talks went on in light of a worldwide pandemic and a year of new clashes as well as historic peace talks.

Changes in Funding for Afghanistan

The 2020 Afghanistan Conference serves as a “pivotal moment for aid-dependent Afghanistan.” The changes in funding that Afghanistan will receive in the coming years were a prioritized issue. From 2017 through 2020, Afghanistan received a yearly $3.8 billion from its donors. On the other hand, more recently, estimates determined a 17% drop in funds as Afghanistan has received $3.3 billion for 2021 from donors. Many expected the considerable drops in funding, however. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s economy will contract at least 5.5% by the end of 2020. This is a COVID-19-related crunch that the entire world is feeling. “Donor fatigue” is a concurrent effect as the pandemic stretches the global aid system thin. Donor-reliant nations such as Afghanistan are taking a hit. As the United States Institute for Peace considers funding “a critical ingredient” for stability in Afghanistan, an incoming drop in funds may have detrimental impacts both economically and politically.

Peace Talks in Afghanistan

2020 was also a year for monumental peace talks in Afghanistan, but not a year without violence. In February 2020, a monumental peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban had resulted in a considerable withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan; forces will have reduced from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-January 2021. But violence continues, and in October alone, 35,000 civilians experienced displacement in Helmand Province, and another 16,000 underwent displacement in Kandahar. With the U.S. clearly on the withdrawal, the Afghan government now leads negotiations with the Taliban, who were not invited to the 2020 Afghanistan Conference but made a statement with the hopes that the international community would deliver aid “collected in the name of the people.”

Roles of Afghan Women in the Nation’s Civil Society

Another primary concern at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference, specifically among Afghan-based groups working for peace and development, was the future roles that Afghan women may play in the nation’s civil society. The Kabul-based group Equality for Peace and Democracy made an address. It exalted the impact that gender-based equality has in a society striving for a place on the world stage. The aid group CARE, which noted that women and girls have experienced exclusion “from meaningful participation” in Afghan society, hopes that donors will make more economic and political opportunities for women in Afghanistan a requirement for financial assistance.

Naturally, the epidemic, declines in donorship, historic developments in regional peace and potential upheaval of civil society all presented humanitarian worries for Afghanistan’s immediate future. As the nation enters the second wave of COVID-19, food prices will continue to rise globally. In addition, a third of Afghanistan’s population is predicted to face “crisis or emergency levels of hunger” through March 2021. The more mountainous regions of Afghanistan, which typically face bitter winters, will have even more vulnerable food security. The 2020 Afghanistan Conference, however, was a productive way to bring these issues to light and an opportunity for the international community to learn about these problems and pledge to help treat them.

Stirling MacDougall
Photo: Flickr

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

Facts About Poverty in Finland
Many know Finland as one of the happiest countries in 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 more than 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. More than 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.

Concluding Thoughts

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 expanding economy.

– Hena Pejdah
Photo: Flickr