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

Vietnam has been making strides in its development over the past few decades; the country has seen a reduction in poverty and an increase in the standard of living. The Vietnamese government has invested heavily in its reformed education system, especially when it comes to literacy. Ninety percent of the working-age population is now literate and 98% of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school. The gender gap in education that plagues many other countries is nearly nonexistent in Vietnam, as the enrollment rates are comparable for boys and girls. Furthermore, 25% of college-age adults are enrolled in tertiary education.

These numbers are the product of many years of change in the Vietnamese education system. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the French colonized Vietnam, and very few citizens were able to attend school. With French considered the dominant language of the country at the time, nearly the entire population was illiterate. After Vietnam gained independence in 1945, the government began focusing on improving literacy rates and reforming the education system. Violent conflicts and economic crises made this difficult for many years, but the most recent decade has seen steady progress.

Vietnam first entered the PISA test in 2012. This test measured how 500,000 students from schools in 65 countries answered written and multiple-choice questions. Vietnam ranked 17th in math, eighth in science, and 19th in reading, thus outranking some developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. These results were a positive surprise worldwide.

There has been much discussion about the reasons behind Vietnam’s recent success. The government has been focused on investing in the education system — 21% of all government expenditure is devoted to education. Furthermore, teachers have been traditionally highly respected in Vietnamese culture and they are expected to meet high standards and stay committed to professional development. However, there is concern that strong PISA performance does not tell the whole story.

While the enrollment rates are high for primary school, only 65% of secondary school-age students attend school. Poor or disadvantaged students often drop out, and their scholastic abilities (or lack thereof) were not reflected in the PISA scores. While more privileged students scored high, students who may have lowered the scores were left out of the picture entirely.

Some Vietnamese schools have the resources to focus on creativity and critical problem solving, but most encourage rote learning and memorization. These methods can result in impressive test scores, but do not serve students well once they are out of school. Sadly, corruption is also an issue in Vietnamese schools, particularly elite schools, which sometimes sell students places for extremely high prices.

Although the Vietnamese education system has a long way to go, the recent PISA scores are positive signs of things to come. In the long process of recovering from years of conflict, these reforms in the school system have brought about progress and a more educated populace. As Vietnam develops, schools can continue to improve and effectively serve students of all economic backgrounds.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, The Economist, World Education News and Reviews, World Bank
Photo: Global Playground