Poverty in Finland
Poverty in Finland? Regardless of a person’s wealth, social well-being or background, Finland is one of the most successful countries in providing equal opportunities for all citizens. No person in Finland lives beneath the international poverty line due to social benefits for employees, pensioners and young people.

Successfully Fighting Poverty in Finland

As of January, Finland has seen its highest unemployment rate since June 2016, with an increase to 9.2 percent. Although the rate has increased, Finland is currently in the midst of trialing a universal basic income scheme. The country now pays its unemployed citizens £475 per month in place of previous social benefits and will continue to pay this even when citizens find work. This trial aims to not only reduce but bring an end to poverty in Finland.

Although this scheme is intended to alleviate poverty in Finland, it could also push more people below the poverty line. Due to child benefits, housing allowances and national pensions being cut, Finland could see a rise in poverty rates. Already 180,000 pensioners live below the poverty line and this could increase due to the cuts in benefits and allowances that the government previously provided. Even with the government paying unemployed citizens monthly, pensioners will benefit more from social allowances than from this recurring payment.

Education in Finland is designed to provide the best experience for students and to lead them straight into employment. Children do not start school until they reach the age of seven and are not formally tested until they reach 16. With a high graduation rate of 93 percent, 66 percent of students then continue to study at college-level and another 43 percent begin vocational training. The school system is completely funded by the state in order for every child to have the opportunity to receive an education. With a high rate of college and vocational applicants, Finland provides every opportunity for students to head straight into employment.

Healthcare is not free in Finland; it is funded through taxation and patient fees. Facilities determine medical charges based on the patient’s ability to pay for their medication. Nevertheless, healthcare is available to all permanent residents in Finland.

Poverty in Finland is one of the lowest worldwide due to social benefits. Hopefully, this new scheme will prove to alleviate poverty and boost employment rates.

Georgia Boyle

Photo: Flickr

Education in Finland: A Model For Equality
Education in Finland is prestigious and public. After 40 years of education reform to propel the economy, Finland has created some of the finest students in the world. In 2000, they led in reading, in 2003, in math and in 2006, in science. Since 2009, they consistently rank at the top for each subject in the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Not only does education in Finland produce top tier students, but the country has also created an education system that works for everyone. About 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school, 17.5 percentage points higher than the US, and 66 percent go to college, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet, Finland spends 30 percent less on education than the US.

Even with their amazing achievements in education, however, Finland has not yet found a popular following in implementing similar policies within other countries. In Finland, there is only one standardized test, unlike the U.S. and many Asian countries, where standardized tests are taken every year to measure students. Science classes are capped at 16. In the U.S., however, poorer public school systems pack many students into underfunded science classes. Teachers are also required to have master’s degrees, which are fully subsidized by the government, while the U.S. expects a bachelor’s degree without providing subsidies.

Although Finland may strive for excellence in education, they primarily value equality, a value missing in many American and Asian education systems. Whereas gifted students are separated into higher level classes in the U.S., Finland keeps all students in the same classrooms, providing extra help to those who need it. There are no private schools in Finland as all schools are 100 percent publicly funded. Each student has equal access to free school meals, health care, psychological counseling and individual student guidance, regardless of socioeconomic background.

As opposed to the U.S., where a good education generally means sending your kids to private or charter schools if you can afford it, Finland provides an equal education for everyone. Rather than creating a market for certain individuals to buy the best quality education, Finland created the base of its education system to help everyone. As opposed to Asian cultures that stress constant studying and competition between students, Finland prioritizes the students’ learning desires and fostering cooperation. There are no rankings for best schools or students.

Among other factors, Finland also selectively chooses its teachers; there is a 7 percent acceptance rate in Helsinki, which encourages constant retraining for teachers, creates broad curriculum guidelines and focuses more on quality time in the classroom. Education in Finland is clearly more relaxed and equitable, yet they still consistently boast the best scores. Although expensive private schools and exhaustive studying may produce similar results, they are not the most efficient strategies for a both equitable and robust education system.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr