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Working group on inequality submitted its final report to the Prime Minister

Government Communications Department
21.3.2018 17.14
Press release 143/2018

A little over a year ago, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä appointed a working group to find out how to prevent and reduce inequality. The working group has completed its work and proposes measures to be taken in a number different spheres of life. Its assignment was to find new practices and means that would create opportunities for all people living in Finland to get along and have a role in society. The working group submitted its final report to the Prime Minister on Wednesday 21 March.

"The standard of living, quality of life and lifestyles of people in Finland have improved on average, but all have not managed to keep up with the positive developments.  The working group was assigned to narrow the gap experienced by those who feel that they are not on board and to facilitate participation in society," says Professor Juho Saari, who chaired the working group.

Measures to safeguard, restore, intensify and rescue

The working group divided its proposals under four categories: safeguarding, restoring, intensifying and rescuing measures.

Reducing inequality requires a systematic review of measures that the public authorities are responsible for in order to safeguard people's capacity to assume responsibility, take initiative and act independently. The working group's proposals focus on creating a policy to reduce inequality, developing democratic institutions and child- and youth-oriented services, and reducing inequality in housing.

Restoring measures aim at the establishment of consistent benefit and service structures that are clearly formulated and support people's capacity to resume independent living. 

The working group proposes the harmonisation of income transfers and services so that they would be more motivating, and the reconciliation of work and family life to reduce inequality. Raising the level of skills and knowledge is considered to help prevent unemployment when changes take place in working life. In addition, the working group proposes that reforms in the policy against over-indebtedness, in certain sectors applying to integration, and in substance abuse and mental health services should be targeted at measures to prevent and reduce inequality.

Today, resources are still channelled to activities without sufficient evidence of their effectiveness or productivity. Intensifying measures are meant to improve the effectiveness and knowledge-based foundation of activities, foresight capacity, and anchoring of the results of development work.

These measures concentrate on reforms leading to more effective practices in social work, and on strengthening of project work supported through national funding in order to combat and reduce inequality. Additionally, the working group proposes long-term support for research of inequality, wellbeing and social security, and the creation of an operational model for experimenting.

Rescuing measures support the opportunities of participation in the Finnish society by the most disadvantaged groups of people. The working group's proposals focus on halving homelessness, strengthening of participatory communities, restructuring of social rehabilitation, as well as on services for substance abusers and people receiving substitution treatment, and services for prisoners on probation, for instance.

The report also includes a proposal for a programme of actions for preventing and reducing inequality. In addition to the actual proposals, the working group suggests that a number of measures preventing equality be incorporated in ongoing projects and taken into account in health and social policy guidelines.

The working group’s proposals

Safeguarding measures

Policies to reduce inequality (p. 28)

  • Creating a policy for reducing inequality and for its systematic monitoring in Finland 
  • Enabling the use of data resources in tackling the growth of inequality

Democratic institutions to strengthen social inclusion (p. 30)

  • Supporting schools' democracy work and creating new partnerships 
  • Removing barriers to inclusion

A child- and youth-oriented statute and service system (p. 33)

  • Reforming the legislative framework to enable the establishment of child- and youth-oriented services
  • Transferring to phased provision of early childhood education and care for all five-year-olds

Reducing inequality in housing (p. 36)

  • Increasing affordable rented accommodation and curbing housing expenses
  • Creating a policy that prevents segregation in housing

Restoring measures

Harmonisation and incentive effects of income transfers and services (s. 39)

  • Clarifying the benefits system by reducing incentive traps and reducing the chances of falling through the net.
  • Reforming social assistance into a more encouraging and customer-oriented system and improving the precondition of social work
  • Updating housing allowances

Reconciliation of work and family life (p. 45)

  • Creating national criteria for informal care (elderly people, people with disabilities and children with a chronic disease) and reconciling employment and informal care
  • Paying attention to diverse family structures in the benefits and services system for families with children

Measures to combat over-indebtedness (p. 47)

  • Clarifying the organisation of financial and debt counselling
  • Reforming the practices concerning granting of consumer credits
  • Developing affordable credit options for persons on low income
  • Clarifying the need of new means for debt restructuring and procedures for guiding persons in dire financial straits to seek financial and debt counselling at an early phase

Intensified integration of immigrants (p. 49)

  • Promoting the integration of immigrants

Prevention of unemployment by raising skills and knowledge levels (p. 50)

  • Developing adult education and training and training courses for persons at risk of becoming unemployed

Reform of substance abuse and mental health work (p. 52)

  • Safeguarding the application of harmonised quality criteria for mental health and substance abuse services

Intensifying measures

More effective practices and procedures for social work (p. 55)

  • Reforming the provision of basic and further education for health and social service workers
  • Upgrading the evaluation of the effectiveness of social work

Project work supported through national funding in order to combat and reduce inequality (p. 57)

  • Providing more resources for CSOs' inequality work

Long-term research of wellbeing, social security and inequality (p. 58)

  • Launching a research programme focusing on inequality, wellbeing and social security

Rescuing measures

  • Halving the number of homeless below 4,000 persons (p. 60)
  • Supporting participatory communities (p. 62)
  • Strengthening social rehabilitation and services that improve the quality of life (p. 63)
  • Developing  non-discriminatory and accessible services for injecting drug users (p. 64)
  • Intensifying the use of probation supervision in cooperation with healthcare and social service providers (p. 64)

Broad-based prevention of inequality in cross-cutting actions

A programme of actions for preventing and reducing inequality (p. 66)

Prevention and reduction of inequality in the implementation of social policy guidance (p. 69)

  • Counties' monitoring and reporting responsibilities
  • Steering of healthcare and social welfare services and provision of adequate resources for safeguarding mental health services and services for substance abusers
  • Reforming the practices and procedures of social work as a part of the health, social services and regional government reform
  • Early identification of and intervention in mental health and substance abuse problems
  • Multidisciplinary coordination of services for people with disabilities
  • Adapted and substitute work as alternatives for certain sickness absences

Preventing and reducing inequality in ongoing projects and actions (p. 71)

  • Establishing an activity and interaction model supporting child- and youth-oriented culture of operationDeveloping a family leave system that reduces inequality
  • Devising methods to activate the least employable
  • Decreasing loneliness
  • Improving the inclusion of people with limited capacity for work in the labour market
  • Supporting immigrants' integration by providing language courses
  • Facilitating immigrants' integration into the labour market
  • Intensifying the assessment of asylum seekers' health and their healthcare and access to social services
  • Adopting more flexible approach to immigrants' family reunification
  • Carrying out pilot schemes and experiments and adopting new kinds of funding solutions in the fight against inequality

Final report of the working group on inequality

Professor Juha Saari's presentation at the press conference

More information: Professor of Sociology Juho Saari, [email protected], tel. +358 40 828 1027, University of Tampere

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