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OECD policy paper assesses the state of wellbeing in Finland

Ministry of Education and CultureMinistry of Social Affairs and HealthMinistry of the Environment
Publication date 9.6.2023 11.10
Press release

The level of wellbeing among people in Finland may fall if we do not invest in education, social capital and the reduction of health inequalities, according to a recent policy paper by the OECD. The policy paper describes the combined effects of the sustainability of people’s wellbeing, the economy and the environment. It is possible to create solutions to the challenges of economic sustainability with the help of information.

“Finland is one of the world leaders on sustainable wellbeing, with a balanced economic model that promotes people’s wellbeing and environmental sustainability. The new OECD review can be used to inform policy decisions that will have a good impact on the economy and wellbeing,” says Romina Boarini, Director of the OECD Centre for Well-being, Inclusion, Sustainability and Equal Opportunity.

The OECD policy paper on wellbeing in Finland identifies the areas of competence and wellbeing that give cause for concern regarding their development. They will also inevitably weaken the economy in the long run if active steps are not taken to seek solutions to the situation. Deteriorating competence and health, along with inequality, affect people’s ability to work and participate in society. In addition to mental health disorders, being overweight and developing related illnesses have become more common, and they are the most common causes of disability pensions. 

“It is possible to reduce considerable socio-economic and regional differences in people’s health and wellbeing through national decision-making. To do this, we need legislative and financial measures,” says Permanent Secretary Veli-Mikko Niemi of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. 

Measures to reverse the decline in learning outcomes

The OECD policy paper highlights the challenges of the educational sector, which have also been a recent topic of discussion in Finland. Learning outcomes are declining, differences in learning outcomes related to social background are growing, and differences in learning outcomes related to gender are also great in Finland by international standards. The level of education is closely linked to, for example, employment, participation in society and life expectancy. The employment rate of people with an upper secondary qualification is clearly lower, their experience of societal influencing is weaker, and their lives are shorter when compared to highly educated people. The share of highly educated young adults in Finland has developed poorly and remained clearly below the level of other Nordic countries and the OECD average. Based on the outcomes, safeguarding future wellbeing requires that investments in education and R&D be ensured and the decline in the level of competence and education be reversed. 
“The outcomes correspond to and support the picture of the national situation. We are already aware of the problems, and measures have been taken to address them. The recent active discussion on these issues strengthens our belief in that national consensus has grown around the need for additional measures – or their necessity in fact,” says Permanent Secretary Anita Lehikoinen of the Ministry of Education and Culture.

Climate measures have progressed but more momentum is needed to reach targets 

With regard to the environment, the OECD policy paper highlights that Finland has substantially decreased its greenhouse gas emissions but the use of raw materials has remained high. While investments related to climate change, renewable energy and low-emission transport have been stepped up, significant further measures are needed to reach national climate neutrality and circular economy targets. The policy paper also points out that measures taken in the land use and forestry sectors are insufficient. A strong emphasis on bioenergy can make it even more difficult to achieve the targets regarding climate change and biodiversity. A number of new green jobs are expected to be generated in the forestry sector at the same time as emission reduction targets become more difficult to reach. According to the OECD, this outlines the challenge in reconciling tensions between environmental goals and short-term economic interests.

The OECD policy paper notes that people in Finland have better and easier access to green spaces in their immediate surroundings when compared to other OECD countries. The air quality is also good in Finland, and the number of premature deaths due to air pollution is relatively low. 

As for housing, the paper states that it has become more difficult to find affordable housing in Finland. The situation has deteriorated even further over the last ten years.

“In its policy paper, the OECD draws attention to our shortcomings regarding the climate, the environment and housing. These findings are consistent with our national situation picture. It is clear that, going forward, we will pay even more attention to the social impacts of climate policy and its impacts on income distribution as well as to the measures improving the functioning of the housing market. However, it is worth remembering that Finland has succeeded in so many things and our long-term environmental policy is producing results,” says Permanent Secretary Juhani Damski of the Ministry of the Environment.

It is possible to assess the sustainability of people’s wellbeing, the economy and the environment simultaneously and to identify the combined effects of these factors 

The OECD policy paper on wellbeing in Finland is based on the Wellbeing Framework that the OECD first outlined in 2011 and have since revised. The Framework and many other analysis models for wellbeing used by the OECD countries prove that it is possible to simultaneously assess the aspects of sustainability related to wellbeing, the economy and the environment and to identify the combined effects and interdependencies of these factors. In addition, it is possible to create solutions to the challenges of economic sustainability with the help of information. If the effects on people’s wellbeing are not taken into account, decisions concerning the economy will not be sustainable in the long run. 

During the next government term, an assessment applying the economy of wellbeing approach should be made in respect of all significant measures to balance finances.

The key findings of the OECD policy paper have been translated into Finnish, and they were published on 9 June 2023.

The full policy paper is available on the OECD website.


Heli Hätönen, Ministerial Adviser, The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, +358295163326, [email protected]

Aleksi Kalenius, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Education and Culture, +358295330291, [email protected] 

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