Prevention of social exclusion, and societal inclusion 2020
Social exclusion and inclusivity – some positive development despite challenges

12.4.2021 10.18
Social exclusion and inclusivity – some positive development despite challenges

The efforts made to reduce the risks of social exclusion among young people have been successful in recent years. No significant changes can be observed in other indicators describing inclusion. The indicators used in the evaluation reflect the situation before the coronavirus outbreak. In 2020, there has been at least a temporary decline in the situation as a result of a poorer employment situation and restrictions imposed on social interactions.

The number of young people not in education, employment, or training (NEETs) has decreased somewhat in recent years

Figure: Young men and women not in employment or education. (Source: Statistics Finland)

Unemployment rate has been usually used as a crisis indicator. Even so, it does a fairly poor job 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 employment rate should be replaced with the NEET indicator (Not in Employment, Education or Training), which shows the share of young people of the age group not in education, employment or 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 objective is for as many young people as possible to have access the labour market through adequate education and training. 

Finland’s current situation 

In 2019, there were 48,000 young people who were not in employment, education or military service, amounting to 7.9 per cent of the total 15–24 age group.

In Finland, the share of young people aged 15–24 who are not in employment, education or training is somewhat higher than in the other Nordic countries, but significantly lower than the EU average.

Finland’s recent development

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).

This development has also been positive among young adults aged between 25 and 29.  In 2015, 53,000 people in this age group belonged to the NEET group, whereas in 2019 there were only 42,000. This favourable development is also reflected in the number of young people registered as unemployed jobseekers at TE Offices.

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 upper secondary qualifications remains substantial, but this trend has been slightly decreasing in recent years. In 2014, their share was 17.8 per cent while in 2019, it was 16.7 per cent. The failure to complete a degree is mainly due to dropping out of education, which is due to a variety of reasons. 

Other observations related to the indicator

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 is usually concerned with the lack of several factors with significance to wellbeing and a chain effect of these. Social exclusion often originates from an accumulation and diversification of deprivation, which results in a poorer ability of those affected 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 societal 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.

Decline in loneliness among young people has stopped

Figure: Young people with no close friends. (Source: Sotkanet)

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.

Finland’s current situation

For the majority of children and young people, feeling lonely is a passing phase; however, around 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 dropped in recent years. In recent years, this positive development seems to have come to a halt. Some children and young people, particularly boys, have no close friends. In 2019, the share of people who felt lonely was 8.4 per cent of the total population. The share of women who feel alone exceeds that of men in the age group over 65. However, loneliness among the ageing population has decreased in recent years.

According to a survey conducted in the EU, 7 per cent of European adults often feel lonely. The share was lower in Finland and other Nordic countries. Based on this survey, the share of those who often felt lonely was 4 per cent in Finland.

Finland’s recent development

Surveys indicate that the loneliness experienced by young people has decreased in Finland over the last few decades. In recent years, the positive development seems to have come to a halt.

Other observations related to the indicator

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.

Comparisons based on surveys are susceptible to different perceptions of what is considered normal or desirable in a culture. The exact linguistic meanings given to words may also vary.

Voter activity recovering

Figure: Voter turnout in parliamentary and local elections. (Source: Parliamentary elections, local election Statistics Finland)

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.

Finland's 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 local residents no longer perceiving 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

Figure: Finland’s score in the Corruption Perceptions index. (Source: Transparency international)

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 use of societal 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.

Finland’s current situation and recent development 

In 2019, Finland ranked the third least corrupted nation in the world in an index comparison. Only New Zealand and Denmark were above Finland in the index. All the Nordic countries placed well on the list. The situation remains unchanged from 2018. Finland scored 86 on a scale of 0-100. The more corruption in the public sector of a country, the lower its score. The scores produced by the index have fallen somewhat in the 2010s, which describes a change for the worse.

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.

Other observations related to the indicator

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.

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 also be perceived as more extensive, structural corruption than the mere payment of money to decision-makers. 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

Figure: Finland’s score in the World Press Freedom Index (Source: Reporters without borders)

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 

Freedom of the press is at a good level in Finland. In 2020, Finland ranked second after Norway in an index describing press freedom.

During the period under consideration, 2002–2020, Finland has most often been the country ranked the best in the index describing press freedom. The Nordic countries have year after year been model countries for press freedom.

Other observations related to the indicator

Overall, the index value has been increasing since 2013, reflecting the deterioration of freedom of the press in the world. The status in 2020 was slightly better than in the previous year. Acts of violence and threats against journalists have increased. The Middle East and North Africa are the most dangerous areas for the safety of journalists. Individual incidents that may have resulted in questions concerning the independence of the media reflect on yearly rankings in the World Press Freedom Index.  


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.

Markus Seppelin, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health