Policy-making environment described: lifestyles healthier but society more polarised

18.6.2014 13.13
News item N5-64751
Socio-economic, regional and gender-based differences in health and welfare are great and have not decreased as wanted. Inequality has not been reduced and the growth of social capital has halted in the 2000s. At the same time, however, the population's lifestyles have improved.

This estimate is based on a description of the Finnish policy-making environment compiled by ministry officials.

The purpose of the description is to offer decision-makers and citizens information on the Finnish policy-making environment. The description of the policy-making environment and the on-going ministries' future reviews are a good source of background information for example in the preparation of the next Government Programme.

The society is increasingly polarising. For example, only a small number of young people experience social disadvantage, exclusion and health problems. At an international level, Finnish income inequalities are still quite small. However, they have grown relatively quickly during the past years when compared to other OECD countries.

Lifestyles have improved

The lifestyles of both young people and adults have improved. For example tobacco and alcohol consumption has decreased, and the number of obese people is no longer growing. Finnish people have less national diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases. Instead, inactivity has become one of the major health risks, alongside smoking and obesity.

Mental disorders have also become more common, and the number of young people on disability pension is growing. Each year, over 2000 people under the age of 30 retire on a disability pension due to mental health reasons alone. This number has doubled during the past ten years. The premature ending of a working career is expensive for both the individual and the national economy.

Public services a component in economic growth

Demographic changes increase costs and become a challenge when the number of tax payers is decreasing. This becomes a sustainability problem of public finances. It can be reduced through structural reforms that increase finances and reduce costs.

A socially stable society is the foundation for economic life and competitiveness. Public services, such as day care, also secure the reconciliation of work and family life, which makes it possible to go to work.

Funding welfare is based on economic growth, and publicly-funded services are an important part of economic growth. Investing in health, welfare and competence protects economic growth.

Services should also be secured for everyone in the whole country in the future. In order to make this possible, the productivity and impact of public service production must be improved. The renewal of social welfare and health care services has an important role in this.