Prevention of social exclusion, and societal inclusion 2019
People’s attachment to society has developed in a positive direction over the past few years

19.3.2020 11.12
People’s attachment to society has developed in a positive direction over the past few years

The prevention of social exclusion and the preservation of societal inclusion create the prerequisites for maintaining a harmonious society and internal safety and promote the implementation of people’s fundamental rights. Statistics can be used to depict different states of deprivation or risks for social exclusion, including non-involvement in activities in society or undesirable life events.

Cross-sectional statistics do not yet indicate who has been socially excluded; at most they can point out the individuals with accumulated risk factors and how many of them there are. It is a question of promoting the following objectives of the social commitment: equal opportunities for well-being, a society of people with influence, sustainable work and sustainable communities and local communities.  

Problems related to the social exclusion of young people and attachment to society

Research on the social exclusion of young people often refers to being left outside of societal systems, such as education system and labour market system, as well as to the effects this has on a person's well-being. A low level of education, long-term unemployment and income problems are significant and strongly interlinked risk factors for social exclusion.

Social exclusion usually involves the lack of several factors with significance to well-being and that these become linked in chains. Social exclusion originates from an accumulation and diversification of deprivation, which results in the poorer ability of a person to manage their own lives. As a concept that references the accumulation of deprivation, social exclusion can be perceived as a process including cultural, health-related, social and economic factors. 

The transformation of the labour market is a significant phenomenon that has led to the social exclusion of young people. New generations will no longer be able to easily find their place in society and the labour market. An individual, who is for one reason or another unable to meet the growing demands for efficiency and education is at risk of becoming excluded from society.

Number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET) is decreasing

Unemployment rate has been usually used as a crisis indicator. Even so, it is a fairly poor job indicator at illustrating social exclusion, because it excludes those outside the workforce, who are at a greater risk of social exclusion than unemployed persons from the assessment (e.g. Larja 2013). It has been proposed that the NEET indicator (Not in Employment, Education or Training) be used in place of the employment rate. NEET examines the share of the young people who are not studying, working or completing their military service. However, young people's life situations vary and having the NEET status is fairly common at some point in life. Young people may be waiting for their studies or military service to start, are taking a year off, studying for entrance examinations or taking a holiday in the summer without a summer job. The principal objective is for young people to have access the labour market through adequate education and training. 

Finland’s current situation and recent development

In 2018, there were 51,000 young people who were not in employment, education or military service, which accounted for 8.3% of the total 15-24 age group (Figure 1). The number of young people not in employment and education has declined in recent years, in large part due to the improved employment situation. Around one half of the young people excluded from work and education were male and the other half female. In particular, the situation of men has improved since 2015. In 2016, around one third of the young people aged 20–24 outside of the labour market and education had not yet completed a secondary level qualification. (Statistics Finland, Labour Force Survey 2016). In Finland, the share of young people aged 15-24 who are not in employment or education is somewhat higher than in the other Nordic countries, but significantly lower than the EU average.

This development has also been positive among young adults aged 25-29. In 2015, 53,000 people in this age group belonged to the NEET group, whereas in 2018 there were only 45,000. This favourable development is also reflected in the number of young people registered as unemployed jobseekers at TE Offices. In 2015, the average number of unemployed persons registered on the monthly measurement day was 47,000, while in 2018 the average figure was 32,500.

Those without a secondary qualification often encounter problems with their well-being, such as difficulties in their livelihood and mental health. They are also more likely to be excluded from work and education later on. Nearly all of those who complete their basic education apply for further education, and training and education places are available for the entire age group. However, the share of those aged 20-24 without a secondary qualification remains substantial, but this trend has been slightly decreasing in recent years. In 2014 the share was 17.8%, while in 2017 it was 16.7%. The failure to complete a degree is mainly due to dropping out of education, which is due to a variety of reasons. 

Experiences of discrimination and loneliness substantially increase the risk of social exclusion

The school health survey carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare has explored experiences of loneliness.  The indicator produces information on the share (%) of young people who report that they have no close friends. The indicator is based on the question: "At the moment, do you have a close friend with whom you can talk confidentially about almost everything concerning yourself?" The response alternatives were: 1) I do not have any close friends 2) I have one close friend 3) I have two close friends 4) I have several close friends. The examination included the respondents who had selected the response alternative 1.

For the majority of children and young people, feeling lonely is a passing phase; however, one out of ten school pupils feel lonely from year to year. The share of young people with no close friends, boys in particular, has slightly dropped in recent years. Nonetheless, a significant share of children and young people, particularly boys, have no close friends. 

There is an undeniable link between loneliness and depression and social exclusion. The Ministry of Education and Culture has estimated that a person's becoming socially excluded at a young age will cost the society EUR 1.2 million during his or her lifetime. The prevention of loneliness among children and young people is a key challenge for the promotion of health and wellbeing. A child or young person with no friends might face several risk factors that will threaten his or her health and wellbeing later in life. 

Voter activity recovering

Voter activity is connected to both long-term changes in society, as well as the imminence of elections and events taking place at the same time with them. Long-term development trends are connected to changes occurring in the society while short term trends are mostly affected by the technical arrangements for elections as well as the electoral settings.

Recent development

Voter activity in Finland has declined over the past few decades more than on average in Western European countries. The most important reasons for the decline in voter turnouts are likely to include a reduction in citizens' attachment to specific parties and a sense of responsibility pertaining to voting as a civic duty. The development in voter turnout has not been as obviously declining in the 2000s as it was in the 1980s and 1990s. (Figures 3 and 4). Women have been more active than men in voting since the end of the 1980s. Young men are the least active in voting.

Finland’s current situation

In the 2019 parliamentary elections, the turnout among Finnish citizens living in Finland was 72.1 per cent, which is 2.0 percentage points higher than in Finland’s previous parliamentary elections. The turnout rose in all electoral districts. In mainland Finland, the highest turnout was recorded in the Helsinki district (77.7%) and the lowest in the Savo-Karelia district (67.4%). In the 2019 parliamentary elections, women voted considerably more actively than men, and turnout of women was 2.9 percentage points higher than that of men. Voter turnout also increased among voters living abroad. In 2019, 12.6 per cent of those who lived abroad and had the right to vote voted in the parliamentary elections.

In the local elections held during the current decade, there have been many municipalities and voting districts where the majority of persons with a right to vote have opted out of voting. There are major differences in voting activity between municipalities as well as within large municipalities, which may be related to issues such as the socio-economic segregation of the areas. 

While the long-term trend in voter participation in municipal elections has also been on the decline in the other Nordic countries, voter activity in Finland's local elections has been substantially more modest than in the other countries. However, the drop in the voting activity does not appear to be explained by the fact that local residents no longer perceive voting in local elections as the most important means to exert influence in one's municipality. By contrast, the importance of voting has been highlighted ever since the early 2000s. 

Observations added to the indicator

Voter activity is a very limited indicator for describing involvement in society. These days, citizens participate in society by multiple different means. In addition to the more traditional ways of participation, many new forms of involvement have emerged, including the citizens' initiative, local resident's initiative and hearing, as well as different types of voluntary activism and online participation. Voting activity also fails to describe the extent of political rights. However, voter activity is often used as some kind of indicator of political participation, as reliable information on it is easily available. In Finland, extensive information on voting activity is available through both the Finnish Election Study Portal and the election statistics compiled by Statistics Finland. 

Finland ranks well in comparisons on corruption and freedom of the press

Corruption weakens people's trust in the functionality of a society, does not guarantee equal opportunities for influencing decision-making, and increases inequality among citizens. Corruption is reflected in inequality in the access to services and exacerbates differences in the labour market. Societal inclusion also includes the implementation of the freedom of expression as well as free dissemination of information. The opportunity to present different opinions supports inclusion and non-discrimination.

The index on perceptions of corruption combines the results of various international corruption surveys and assessments carried out by prestigious institutions. The index is based on questionnaire surveys carried out by 13 independent sources. These parties specialise in administrative and business environment analyses. Analyses are based on expert assessments and the views of business world representatives. The index has been compiled by asking agents such as company managers whether they find that there is corruption in their country and whether the company managers must pay decision-makers for favourable decisions. According to Transparency International, the index is politically independent and impartial. Nonetheless, no comprehensive description is available of the actual sources of information. 

Finland has been very successful in the index comparison by Transparency International, an organisation measuring corruption. As a result of a scandal concerning electoral campaign funding that started in 2008, Finland dropped to fifth place in the ranking. The Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International is primarily concerned with measuring the corruptibility of public authority. The index has been criticised as being limited due to the fact that corruption can be perceived as a more extensive issue than the mere provision of money to decision-makers. 

Finland’s current situation

Finland has been rated the world's third least corrupted nation in an index comparison. In 2018, Finland shared the third position with Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland. Only New Zealand and Denmark were above Finland in the index. All the Nordic countries placed well on the list. Finland scored 85 on a scale of 0-100. The more corruption in the public sector of a country, the lower its score.

Efforts to combat corruption can only succeed in societies with freedom of expression, transparent political processes and strong democratic institutions. The level of the control of corruption is an important indicator for global governance used by the World Bank in different contexts in its country-specific assessments. The results of an indicator by the World Bank on the level of the control of corruption also confirms that Finland has long been among the world's least corrupt countries.

Observations added to the indicator

Transparency International Finland has pointed out that the index does not reach structural corruption typical of Finnish society. Nevertheless, Finland is among the least corrupted countries in the world, which increases the citizens' trust in the functionality of society as well as positively influences the citizens' equal opportunities for participating in societal decision-making. 

Freedom of the press has remained stable

The Constitution of Finland guarantees everyone the right to the freedom of expression, which entails the right "to express, disseminate and receive information, opinions and other communications without prior prevention by anyone." The index on press freedom has been prepared by the Reporters Without Borders organisation (RSF). The index compares the situation in 180 countries. The index is based on an online survey including 87 questions. The target respondents for the survey are professionals in communications, experts in legal matters and sociologists selected by the RSF. 

Finland’s current situation and recent development compared to reference countries

During the period under consideration, 2002-2019, Finland has most often been the country ranked the best in the index describing press freedom. In 2019, Finland placed second after Norway. The Nordic countries have year after year been model countries for press freedom.

In recent years, there has been a general increase in the index values, which reflects a decline in the freedom of the press around the world. Acts of violence and threats against journalists have increased. Individual incidents that may have resulted in questions concerning the independence of the media reflect on yearly rankings in the World Press Freedom Index.  

Young people optimistic about Finland as a country of future residence

Sufficient trust in society is a precondition for a sustainable society. Young people's activities are guided by their trust. If a person has little trust in society, he or she will not be motivated to participate in it. In such cases, many young people might focus on those issues which they believe they can influence. For example, the willingness of young people to participate in politics has decreased, but voluntary participation online or by making consumer choices has become more common among young people.

The indicator included in the Youth Barometer survey aims to demonstrate the level of trust young people have in Finnish society. Young people's trust in society improved in the 2018 survey. In previous years, trust had fallen, but the latest trend is an evident increase in optimism. In 2016, the share of respondents who had a positive opinion of Finland as a place of residence was 55 per cent, but increased to 77 per cent in the 2018 survey.

Trust in the future of Finland was measured by asking the respondents for their opinions about Finland as their country of residence in the future. However, it is possible to answer this question from different perspectives by observing the attractiveness of Finland from the viewpoint of the realisation of individual wishes or by comparing the living conditions in Finland with those in other countries. Thus, the interpretation of the response is not straightforward. The improved employment situation in Finland and the upswing after the long economic recession may also be reasons for the increase in trust.