Finland has developed to one of the wealthiest and most generous welfare states in the world and with low levels of income inequality and high social mobility. A deeper look reveals that not everyone in Finland has been a part of the Finnish growth story. Growth, employment and wealth creation are restricted to certain urban areas, predominately rural areas falling behind. The Finnish disparity report Unequal Finland – Regional socio-economic disparities in Finland shows that the country has distinct geographical inequalities in terms of growth, employment chances and wealth creation.
Municipalities under pressure
Uneven growth fueled by high rates of urbanization and rural depopulation has been further exasperated by the country’s demographic change and stagnating unemployment rates have increased regional inequalities and put increasing pressure on municipalities to provide services of high quality for their inhabitants. This calls for policy reforms not only on the national level, but also to EU policies. A new approach for regional development is needed.
See the online publication event here on Tuesday 20 April at 15.00-16.30 (EET, in Finnish).
An interactive website has been set up for detailed information on indicators and their values in Finland’s municipalities.
Unequal Europe – Tackling Regional Disparities in Europe
The benefits of economic growth and growing employment have been unequally spread not only throughout society, but also geographically. Many European countries display distinct regional disparities. In many cases, economic growth and employment is limited to certain areas – mostly dynamic urban centres. Meanwhile, rural areas and those that have experienced industrial decline are falling behind. Democratic actors and institutions have failed to solve the underlying socioeconomic issues. As a result, the failure to address these social and spatial inequalities has fueled dissatisfaction with the political and democratic systems in many European countries, contributing in many cases to the rise of rightwing populism.
National disparity reports
But what are the answers to these challenges? How should policies in EU-member states and in the EU tackle regional socio-economic disparities? With the project “Unequal Europe – Tackling Regional Disparities in Europe”, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, together with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), has investigated the extent of regional disparities in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Italy and Romania.
Not just growth, but equal opportunities
The recommendations outlined in the country reports form a basis for reform of the EU’s regional and cohesion policies. Policymakers need to take a broader approach when it comes to economic and social well-being. The EU should address social and economic inequalities in all their dimensions. Fostering local development and well-being in all areas of a country is not only a goal for economic policy. Rather, it is a matter of strengthening democracy and ensuring opportunities and participation for all.
Dr. Philipp Fink, Director, FES Nordic Office, philipp.fink(at)fesnord.se, tel. +46 768 486 705 (project)
Dr. Maija Mattila, Project Manager, Kalevi Sorsa Foundation, maija.mattila(at)sorsafoundation.fi, tel. +358 50 575 2338 (Finnish report)