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

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

Poverty Rate in FinlandFinland is a country in Europe with a population of 5.5 million. The nation borders Sweden, Norway and Russia. Despite the nation’s small population, Finland is extremely impressive on the global scale. The nation is known for high quality education, equality and a national social welfare system. The poverty rate in Finland is also among the best in the world.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines poverty rate as “the ratio of the number of people (in a given age group) whose income falls below the poverty line; taken as half the median household income of the total population.” As of 2014, Finland’s total poverty rate of .068 is the fourth best in the world, trailing Denmark, the Czech Republic and Iceland. For people under the age of 17 in poverty, Finland does even better, ranking second in the world.

The poverty rate in Finland is not among the world’s best by accident. The nation’s economy is open and transparent. It has well-maintained laws and a very low tolerance for corruption.

The nation’s many successes does not mean that everything is perfect. The economy struggled in recent years, forcing the government to take measures to bring back economic growth and reduce public debt.


Maintaining a Low Poverty Rate in Finland


Fortunately, things are already starting to turn around. In 2015, the economy grew for the first time since 2011, and that growth continued in 2016. In January of this year, Finland began a new program designed to help the nation’s people and economy. The trial, which will last for two years, will pay 2,000 randomly-selected citizens unemployment benefits of 560 euros every month.

The experiment aims to limit bureaucracy, reduce poverty and increase employment. At the moment, we cannot know for sure how effective this program will be. Critics argue that the program may encourage laziness, since people will be receiving a paycheck without working. However, there is hope that it can accomplish its goals.

Looking forward, Finland must work hard to strengthen its economy, which will include lowering labor costs and increasing demand for its exports. The population of Finland is aging and the nation is experiencing a decrease in productivity in traditional industries. All of this threatens the nation’s economy.

Nevertheless, the poverty rate in Finland is something to be admired. The country has and will continue to face many challenges, economic and otherwise, but its unique actions may be what it needs to stay ahead of the curve.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

Cost of Living in FinlandFinland is a Scandinavian country with a population of 5.5 million people. While known for its excellence in education and civil liberties, Finland also has a high cost of living. Near the end of the twentieth century, Finland was announced the world’s most expensive country. Fortunately, the situation has improved. Prices and the cost of living in Finland have decreased since the turn of the century.

According to calculations by the Global Property Guide, a bundle of goods and services costing one dollar in the U.S. would cost $1.03 in Finland. While this is lower than the U.K. and other Scandinavian countries, it is higher than most countries in the European continent.

While housing is usually reasonably priced, certain items drive up the cost of living in Finland. The country has a state-run monopoly on alcoholic beverages, which helps keep prices at 172 percent of the European average. Other items are similarly pricey. Food tends to cost 120 percent of the European average, which is due in part to a significant value-added tax. The average cost of a Coke or Pepsi is $2.44, while the average McDonald’s combo meal is $8.18. A gallon of milk costs about $4.10.

Finns bring home slightly more money in their paychecks than workers in the U.S. The average monthly salary in Finland is about $3,854, while the average monthly salary in the United States is $3,769.

As in most countries, the cost of living varies depending on where you live. The cost of living in the capital of Finland, Helsinki, is significantly more expensive than living in the rural areas. Housing prices in Helsinki are double the prices in the rest of Finland.

While Finns benefit from higher wages and quality education, the cost of living remains higher than in the U.S. or most European countries. Finns don’t seem to mind, though, seeing as Finland was recently ranked the fifth happiest country in the world.

Brock Hall

Causes of Poverty in Finland
Finland is rated among the top nations in the world for quality of life, financial equality and educational systems. As a welfare state, it provides its citizens with public services to protect against financial and social risks like accidents, disabilities, old age and unemployment. Thus, there are few causes of poverty in Finland.

The country also has one of the lowest poverty rates at approximately 0.04% of its 5.4 million citizens. However, the percentage of people considered at risk of poverty is on the rise.

In the late 1980s, Finland had an impressively low unemployment rate of 3.5%, with 10.7% of the population considered at risk of poverty.

In the early 1990s, Finland suffered a severe recession that brought the unemployment rate to 18.5%. This subsequently dropped to 9.1% by the late 1990s as the nation made a quick recovery.

The Finnish government made significant spending cuts for public services to cope with the recession. York University graduate scholar Juha Mikkonen wrote that increases in public services grew slowly alongside a slow wage trend since these cuts were made.

Numerous scholars argue this trend left more people at risk. Others argue these public services can be the net that saves those on a low income in the case that an accident, illness, or loss of income hits unexpectedly. These safeguards act to cushion the blow of the key causes of poverty in Finland.


Leading Causes of Poverty in Finland


The number of people at risk rose to 15.6% in the late 2000s and now hovers around 13%. Recently, Finland’s Ministry of Finance announced that around 869,000 people were at risk.

What does it mean to be at risk of poverty? The Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines the poverty line separately for each nation and is usually drawn at or less than 50% of the national median income.

The Finnish government presently uses the OECD’s defining parameters of those at risk of poverty. Those with an annual income of less than 60% of the national median income, which in Finland is $28,238.

In 2014, Statistics Finland reported the two age groups with the highest percentage of at-risk individuals were those 18 to 24 years (at 29.7%) and 75 and older (at 22.2%).

Mikkonen noted that the causes of poverty for Finland’s youth may be their limited employment while in school and increased dependence on their families later in adulthood. If their family falls on hard times, they are put at extra risk.

Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health states that poverty must also be defined by how well a person can access resources necessary to their well-being, such as good housing, food, healthcare and education.

Social exclusion can limit resources as well as job accessibility. Social exclusion and poverty often originate from the same causes depending on how the poor are perceived.

Numerous scholars studied how different people perceive the causes of poverty in Finland, finding that people attribute three main groups of causes: a) one’s personal behavior, b) societal and economic factors and c) luck or fate.

In addition, different social groups of the poor, such as families with children, elderly, and immigrants, are often judged differently as to what caused their poverty and how deserving they are of aid.

What makes these studies important? How a community perceives the poor and poverty influences how poverty-targeted policies are shaped and implemented.

Mikko Niemelä, University of Turku professor of sociology, notes that numerous studies reveal Finns are more likely than other Scandinavians to point to individualistic causes such as poor money management or laziness.

Niemelä’s study compared perceptions of social service providers and the public. About half of all respondents blamed problems with the social security bureaucracy and a lack of skills or opportunities as primary causes. His results also showed that the public was more likely to blame individualistic reasons.

A transition in social security policies occurred in the late 1990s. Prior to the recession, policies largely sought to provide universal protection against financial hardships. Mikkonen notes that there has since been a transition towards policies that specifically target poverty reduction. These policy shifts parallel a change in opinion that disfavors universal policies as not effective in safeguarding against poverty.

One particular policy shift has excited many people across Europe. Beginning January 1, 2017, the Finnish government embarked on an experimental program. Called the Basic Income Experiment, it is part of a transition in governing philosophy towards a “culture of experimentation.” According to the Prime Minister’s 2016 Action Plan, this “experimentation will aim at innovative solutions, improvements in services, the promotion of individual initiative and entrepreneurship, and the strengthening of regional and local decision-making and cooperation.”

The experiment includes 2,000 citizens between the ages of 25 and 58 considered at risk who will be given a flat monthly income of €560 for two years. This income can be spent by recipients in any way they choose and takes the place of social security payments.

The goal is to see how social security could be made simpler while incentivizing work and providing a level of flexibility to the aid provided.

Why the stir of excitement and controversy? The idea for a flat, unconditional income has been discussed for many years.

A recent poll by Dalia Research Partners and NEOPOLIS found that 64 percent of their ten thousand respondents across 28 European nations would vote in favor of an unconditional basic income for those in need.

And now we wait to see how such an experimental plan might fare on the national scale.

Diana Nightingale

Photo: Flickr

water quality in finland pollution
The water quality in Finland was not always known for being astonishingly clean as it is today.

Before Finland earned the name of a country with some of the cleanest tap water in the world, researchers discovered that the water supply was filled with cancer-causing materials. At this time, citizens referred to their tap water as “ugly water.”

Thanks to the panic and uproar that the discovery of this dirty water caused, Finland’s tap water is now ranked among the cleanest in the European Union.


Evaluating Water Quality in Finland


Just as in most countries, however, drinking the natural water in Finland is certainly not in anyone’s best interest. With sheep, other forms of livestock, and pulp factories in the area, drinking from downstream is not recommended.

Although Finland’s drinking water is up to par, ecology reports demonstrate that water quality for aquatic life remains questionable.

This is mostly due to the large amounts of agricultural production in Finland, causing nutrient over-growth in lakes and rivers. It is the responsibility of farmers and other individuals to do their part in keeping pollutants out of Finland’s waterways.

Finland is also working to restore pathways for fish in order to help with the recent extinction of migratory fish stocks. These pathways surpass dams in a variety of 20 Finnish waterways.

Water quality in Finland is monitored by researchers in a laboratory that includes water from each individual local treatment plant.

Most of the tap water in Finland originates from Lake Päijänne, traveling 120 km to where the water is then treated in pools and safely dispersed into the homes of locals. The rest of the small portion of tap water recipients are receiving their water from a groundwater plant.

After years of fighting against impure and polluted waters, water quality in Finland ranks among the greatest in the world. That is, as long as individuals refrain from drinking downstream.

Noel Mcdavid

Photo: Flickr

The best way to educate students is something that most countries strive to discover. While most are still searching for answers, Finland has seen dramatic progress in its education system within the recent years. The first realization came in 2000 when Finland’s school system was revealed to have the best readers in the world.

Then again in 2009, Finnish students ranked second in science, third in reading, and sixth in math, among a sample of about 500,000 students worldwide. Ever since these rankings were released, countries around the world have been trying to understand what it is that Finland does so well. Here are some of the unique traits of the Finnish education system:

  1. Delayed start: children in Finland do not start their schooling until age seven. Before the start of their formal education, children spend their time in daycare where they learn through more engaging forms such as play, singing, and games.
  2. Frequent breaks: the education system in Finland continues to highlight the importance of playtime throughout schooling. Children are required to spend 15 minutes outdoors every hour, no matter the weather conditions.
  3. Students do not take standardized tests: contrary to many other countries, the Finnish emphasize their dislike of standardized testing. The Finnish education system discourages any standardized testing before the age of 16.
  4. Teaching is a well-respected profession: becoming a teacher is a rigorous and competitive program in Finland. All teachers must go through a five-year master’s program that is highly selective, only accepting a few hundred of the thousands of students that apply.
  5. Uniformity across the country: Finland’s education systems all have the same goals for their students. Additionally, since their educators come from rigorous programs, all schools have equally qualified teachers. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development conducted a survey that ranked the differences between the strongest and weakest students as the smallest in the world.

Finland’s education system is very different from those around the world, and yet it is arguably the most successful. The country stresses the importance of play and teaching students to learn not only for the sake of a test but to be more knowledgeable people. Additionally, the teachers themselves know how important their jobs are and therefore dedicate many years of their lives to learning how to be the best educators they can be. For these reasons and more, Finland’s education system is one of the best in the world.

Olivia Hayes

Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Finland
In 2015, there were over a million migrants and refugees who sought a home in European countries to escape from war and poverty. Approximately 32,000 of them found refuge in Finland. Finland has bolstered enough of the refugee intake that the finance minister is now urging eastern EU countries to use their development funds to take responsibility for the growing refugee crisis and alleviate some of the pressure from western countries, such as Finland, who now face criticism as they increase deportations. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Finland.

10 Facts About Refugees in Finland

  1. More than 400 juvenile applicants in 2016 were found to be adults after medical tests were conducted to determine their biological age. The added protections and quicker processing time given to child refugees have caused this problem of falsity across the globe.
  2. Of those juvenile applicants, 74 percent were from Afghanistan, 11 percent were from Iraq and six percent were from Somalia.
  3. Of the refugees in Finland, 6,657 were forcibly returned to their country of origin (deported) in 2016, and only about 25 percent received assistance in their return. That number doubled from 2015’s reports, which has been attributed as much to the increase in the application as the increase in scrutiny by the Finnish Migration Board.
  4. For the first time since the Finnish Civil War that ended in 1918, the birth rate in Finland is lower than the death rate. However, the influx of migrants has caused the total population to continue to grow. Between 2014 and 2015, as an example of the magnitude of migration, the number of refugees in Finland went from 3,600 to 32,500.
  5. The Finnish Migration Board has peaked at an average processing time of ten months for refugee applications.
  6. It is becoming increasingly common for refugees in Finland to voluntarily leave the country. Besides family obligations or a sense of alienation, one of the most common reasons seems to simply be that it’s too cold for people accustomed to living in the Middle East. Eighty percent of voluntary removals are Iraqis.
  7. One of the most popular towns to house refugees is Punkalaidun, mostly populated by Burmese, Syrians and Ethiopians. The town is a model for cultural integration and has been awarded for their “promotion of ethical relations.” The work that they provide to refugees is unique. They specialize in the production of funeral supplies such as coffins.
  8. The distance between North Africa’s shore and Southern Europe can be extremely dangerous, but it is the journey that many refugees make to reach Finland. In 2015, more than 2,600 people died trying to cross this stretch of the Mediterranean Sea.
  9. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has offered his own home in Kempele as a temporary home to 20 or so migrants.
  10. Since 1973, the Finnish Red Cross has been responsible for receiving quota refugees at the Helsinki Airport. Quota refugees forego reception centers because they’ve been approved for refugee status and sent to Finland by the U.N. Refugee Agency.

Finland is increasingly struggling to keep up with the flow of refugees from conflict areas across the world, most notably those in the Middle East. Refugees continue to risk their lives on the journey there, sometimes lying about their age or sacrificing months of processing time only to be turned away or to leave voluntarily because the conditions are so far from what they hoped. Even with this risk, the country is still a beacon for many hopeful people and a new home to a fortunate few.

Brooke Clayton

Photo: Flickr

Finland is not one of the most populated countries in the world, but it is one of the more well-known. With just more than five and a half million people, Finland ranks 115th in population. The top diseases in Finland are also the major diseases found all around the world.

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement claiming that the top disease impacting the citizens of Finland is cardiovascular disease, contributing to 40 percent of fatalities in 2014.

Coming in second are other non-communicable diseases (NCD), at 25 percent. These diseases are very slow in progressing toward fatal levels. The four main types of NCD are cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes. According to the WHO, they are the leading cause of death on a global scale, representing 63 percent of all deaths annually. Different categories of NCD kill over 36 million people each year, impacting predominantly low-income families, specifically those in less developed countries.

Other NCD making the the top list include various cancers (23 percent) and respiratory diseases (3 percent). Males have a higher chance of dying in each category than females. Over the last 15 years, the numbers for each category have been vastly decreasing due to new technology and procedures and treatments in the categories listed. Other major causes of premature death includes drug use, high blood pressure and obesity.

The smoking percentage in Finland is at 24 percent, which is higher than the U.S. percentage of 15 percent, according to the CDC. These are risks that can be completely eliminated by the individual’s efforts.

The top diseases in Finland mirror a lot of the top diseases around the globe. There is room for improvement based making healthy lifestyle changes and eliminating some of the risks factors including drug abuse and obesity.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Flickr

Due to Finland’s high standard of living, based on the nation’s welfare system, poverty rates are low. In such a system, the Finnish enjoy an exceptional education system, strong health standards, and safe, connected communities, all of which combine to limit the presence of hunger in Finland.

Finland is one of the top-performing countries in education, measured in the fields of reading literacy, math and science by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to the National Center on Education and the Economy, education is made publicly available from the primary level through upper secondary level.

Naturally, education has been shown to reduce the likelihood of poverty, which remains especially true for Finland, where both the quality and availability of the system is widespread. The same is true for healthcare, where the standard of treatment in Finland ranks highly among other OECD nations.

The Finnish also live in safe communities, where 86 percent of respondents claim that they “feel safe walking alone at night,” compared to the OECD average of 68 percent. A low crime rate reflects the nation’s lack of poverty, due to the elements provided in Finland’s welfare system.

In more specific terms, Finland has the fourth lowest poverty rate among OECD nations, according to a 2016 report. It is unsurprising, then, that the issue of hunger is practically nonexistent within the country. As the organization Trading Economics reports, undernourishment affected only five percent of the Finnish population in 2008.

Moreover, Finland aims to end hunger worldwide, evident through the nation’s consistent donations to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). Such donations have contributed to hunger relief in countries such as Lebanon, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic.

“Thanks to Finland’s flexible and predictable multi-year commitment of €29 million,” wrote the WFP in a 2014 report, “we are able to respond to the needs of vulnerable people using innovative tools that increase dignity and efficiency.”

Assuming Finland continues to meet the demands of its citizens, let alone providing assistance elsewhere, hunger in Finland will not be a concern anytime soon.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr