Across the world, more than 150 million people are homeless, around 783 million lack food security and more than half the global population lacks essential health services. Among countries, Finland stands out as a pioneer in implementing innovative solutions to combat mass poverty. The following is a brief look into innovations behind poverty eradication in Finland.
Decline in Homelessness
From 2006 to 2007, Finland experienced a spike in the number of homeless people, the first since 1998. This prompted a focus on addressing homelessness and led to innovations in poverty eradication. The main innovation Finland implemented was the Housing First policy. Enacted in 2008, the Housing First policy has dropped the number of homeless people from more than 8,000 to 3,686 in 2022. This correlates to a 50% reduction in the number of homeless people in Finland in 14 years. The Housing First policy works by granting homeless people access to long-term housing as opposed to the more common temporary shelters. These rental housing units are innovative as they are financially viable and provide the homeless with substantial social support, such as better employment opportunities.
As more homeless people acquired jobs, the unemployment rate dropped by 2.6% from 2015 to 2022. This has, in turn, stimulated Finland’s economy and compensated for the cost of these rental units, thereby highlighting the efficiency of the Housing First policy. Overall, the Housing First policy benefited more than 4,000 individuals through housing, and an additional 137,208 through job opportunities.
Stable Food Security
Food security has become a non-issue in Finland due to innovative approaches dominating the Food and Agriculture industry. One such innovation is the prevalence of vertical farms. Vertical farms have revolutionized food security within Finland as they maximize space (no need for arable land), are pesticide-free, decrease water usage by 90%, cultivate up to 2.5 times more yield and have rapid scaling potential (from 500 to 20,000 sq.m). Vertical farms have proven to be positively transformative as they have successfully increased access to cheaper and healthier foods. Each vertical farm, such as the one in Pirkkala, Finland, has the potential to feed more than 20,000 people.
Another innovation in Finland is the recent creation of Solein, a natural protein produced using air and electricity. The creation of Solein has the potential to increase food security in Finland as it exceeds the bounds of traditional proteins. Solein can be used in meat, cheese, dairy, bread, pasta, drinks, etc. Solein’s versatility makes it suitable for various food products, offering a cost-effective alternative for nutritious food seekers.
As a result of these food security innovations, Finland achieved a score of 83.7 on the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in 2022, the highest among countries. As opposed to the world average of 11.7 % in 2022, Finland’s food insecurity rate remains relatively low at 2.5%. The country’s innovations have prevented 511,233 people from falling into poverty.
Effective Health Care
Finland is lauded for its health care system as it offers a variety of services at affordable prices. One way Finland achieves this is through the innovative Kela Card. In terms of health care, the Kela Card plays a key role, in reimbursing people for medical prescriptions, ill-related absences, travel and a portion of private health care expenses. The Kela Card is an integral component of Finland’s health care system because every citizen and permanent resident of Finland receives it. The Kela Card also provides social security and employment benefits. Its very design allows it to assist those who are struggling to maintain a stable income and provides them with social benefits. This has, in turn, benefitted more than 360,000 people in Finland each year.
Innovations in poverty eradication in Finland extend to medical hardware as well. Finnish tech company Sooma developed a portable medical device for depression treatment. This device is portable and requires no expertise to use, thus reducing the medical costs associated with depression. Another medical instrument, created by Optomed, captures retinal images and diagnoses diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness worldwide. This device is innovative as it is the most affordable camera of its kind. The efficiency of medical equipment in Finland has allowed people to avoid the excessive costs associated with modern health care.
What is Next?
Finland continues to pursue poverty eradication through ongoing innovation. These modern solutions have already contributed to a 1.4% drop in poverty rates between 2019 and 2020. Ultimately, the success of Finland’s innovations could serve as a model and inspiration for other countries looking to alleviate poverty.
– Manav Yarlagadda