Social exclusion and inclusivity

Preventing social exclusion and ensuring participation contribute to maintaining an intact society and internal security and the realisation of the basic human rights.

It is a question of promoting the following objectives of the Society’s Commitment: equal opportunities for wellbeing, a participatory society for citizens, sustainable work, and sustainable communities including local ones.  

Indicators chosen by the network of experts

  1. Young people excluded from work or education
  2. Experience of exclusion or loneliness
  3. Voting rate
  4. Trend in Finland by the Corruption Perceptions and World Press Freedom indexes
  5. Confidence in the society and its future among the young

Linkage to the objectives of Society’s Commitment to Sustainable Development

Equal prospects for well-being
A participatory society for citizens
Sustainable employment
Sustainable society and local communities

Social exclusion and inclusivity
No major changes in indicator values

4.7.2018 16.30
No major changes in indicator values

The research on social exclusion often refers to those left outside of societal systems, such as education and labour market systems, as well as the effects this has on a person's wellbeing. Indeed, low educational level, long-term unemployment and income problems are significant and strongly intertwined risk factors for social exclusion.

Social exclusion is often 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 poorer ability of those affected to manage their own lives. 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 behind the social exclusion of young people. The new generations fail to find their places in society and the labour market in the manner of their predecessors. A person unable to meet the growing demands for efficiency and education for one reason or another is at risk of being excluded from society.

Exclusion and lack if inclusion can easily lead to loneliness. According to studies, long-term loneliness impairs the quality of life and wellbeing of children and young people and is a risk factor for their mental and physical health. In the Youth Barometer of 2014, the young respondents considered social exclusion to concern, above all, the lack of friends, i.e. being left outside of a social life. Mental health issues were considered the second most common reason for social exclusion.

There are no easy solutions to the problems connected to loneliness. For instance, loneliness can be combated by supporting the club activities and morning and afternoon clubs organised by schools as well as small class sizes at schools. An assigned class, teacher or group make it easier for pupils and students to find friends. Both core curricula as well as the Pupil and Student Welfare Act call for an increase of communality at schools and educational institutions. Schools and educational institutions have introduced methods for teaching children and young people emotional and interactive skills important for building friendships and acting in a group.

Loneliness does not only concern children and young people but also causes social exclusion and experiences of deprivation in all age groups. Activities by non-governmental organisations play a key role in combating loneliness and providing all population groups with different opportunities for participation.

Around 10% of Finns are excluded from the labour market and education, the figures haven't changed in recent years

For a long time, there have been discussions on socially excluded young people and those at risk of exclusion. Estimates of the numbers of these young people range between 14,000 and 100,000. The considerable fluctuation in the numbers stems from the fact that no established definition exists for social exclusion. 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; instead, they can at most point out the number of individuals with accumulated risk factors.

The unemployment rate has been usually used as a crisis indicator. However, the unemployment rate does a fairly poor job of illustrating social exclusion as it fails to take into account persons outside of the workforce, who are at a greater risk of social exclusion than unemployed persons (e.g. Larja 2013). This observation uses the NEET indicator (Not in Employment, Education or Training), which examines the portion of young people who are neither studying, working nor completing their military service. However, young people's life situations vary and having NEET status is fairly common at some point in their life. Young people may be waiting to study or for military service to start, are taking a year off, studying for entrance examinations or taking a holiday in the summer without a summer job.

In 2016, a total of 61,000 young people did not attend work, education or military service. This accounts for ten per cent of the entire age group of 15–24-year-olds. The number of young people outside of the labour market and education declined for the first time since 2011. However, their relative share of the age group remained unchanged (10%) as the size of the age group slightly decreased compared to the previous year. Around one half of the young people excluded from work and education were male and the other half female. Around 60 per cent of them perceived themselves as unemployed in 2016. Around 16 per cent of them reported that they were on disability pension or had a long-term illness. Around one in ten was taking care of their children. 20–24-year-olds are more commonly outside the workforce and the educational system than was the case with15–19-year-olds. In 2016, around one third of the young people aged 20–24 who were outside of the labour market and educational system had not yet completed secondary level education (Statistics Finland, Labour Force Survey 2016).

The number of boys with no close friends has slightly decreased

The school health survey carried out by the National Institute for Health and Welfare has explored experiences of loneliness.  The indicator illustrates the share of young people who report having 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 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.

Voting activity has decreased

Voting activity is often used as an indicator for political involvement as reliable data on the issue is and 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.

However, voting activity is limited as an indicator of involvement in society. These days, citizens have multiple different means of involvement. Along with the more traditional ways of involvement, many new forms of involvement have emerged, including the citizens' initiative, local resident's initiative and hearing as well as voluntary activism and online participation. Voting activity also fails to describe the extent of political rights.

Voting activity is connected to both long-term changes in society as well as the imminence of elections and events taking place in connection 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. (Borg 2006)

According to democracy indicators, the voting activity in Finland has declined more than on average in Western European countries in the previous decades. 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. Research findings indicate that people were far less likely to perceive voting as an absolute duty at the turn of the 2000s and 2010s compared to the late 1970s. The development trend in voting percentages has not dropped as clearly in the 2000s as it did in the 1980s and 1990s.

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 connected to issues such as socio-economic segregation of the areas. While the long-term trend in participation in voting at the municipal level has also been in decline in other Nordic countries, the voting activity in Finland's local elections has been clearly 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. Women have been more active than men in voting since the end of the 1980s. The difference between the genders was levelled in the elections of 2011 but not altogether eliminated. Young men are the least active in voting.

Finland continues to achieve a high status in international ratings on corruption and press freedom

Corruption weakens people's trust in the functionality of a society, reduces equal opportunities for affecting decision-making, and increases inequality among citizens. Corruption is also reflected as 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.        

The index depicting views on corruption brings together results from reliable international surveys and assessments on corruption. The index is based on questionnaire surveys carried out by 13 independent sources. These agents are specialised in analyses of administration and business environments whose knowledge basis consists of expert judgements and views of the representatives of business. 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 money to decision-makers. 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 generally been highly successful in the index comparison of 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 authorities. 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 has been rated the world's third least corrupted nation in the index comparison. Only New Zealand and Denmark are above Finland in the index. All Nordic countries score high in the ranking. Finland scores 8.9 on a scale of 0–10. The more corruption in the public sector of a country, the lower its score. Although the number of suspected offences in office has been growing in recent years, the number of persons convicted of bribery offences has remained very small.

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 verify the fact that Finland has been among the least corrupt countries in the world for a considerable time.

However, Tommi Niinimäki, the Chair of Transparency International Finland, has presented that the index fails to reach the structural corruption typical for 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.

Press freedom is also achieved well in Finland. 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 survey is aimed at professionals in communications, experts in legal matters and sociologists selected by the RSF. The questions measure the multivocality of mass media, the independence of media and its self-censorship, environment of communications and legislative frame, the transparency of institutions and approaches as well as the support structures for communications. The qualitative analysis produced by the survey is supplemented with quantitative data on the violence and abuse committed against the representatives of the press.

Since 2013, the countries included in the observation have been given a value on a scale of 0–100 on the index. Zero is the best possible score. The score given to each state is the bigger of two values, one of which also includes the number of violence and abuse committed against the representatives of the press in addition to the score of the survey.

During the period under consideration, 2002–2017, Finland has most often been the country ranked the best in the index describing press freedom. In recent years, there has been an overall increase in the index values, which reflects a decline in the freedom of the press around the world. Individual incidents that may have resulted in questions concerning the independence of the media are reflected in Finland's ranking in the World Press Freedom Index.    

Young people's attitudes towards living in Finland in the future have become increasingly sceptical

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 the issues which they "believe they can influence". While young people have become less interested in participating, for instance, in politics, their voluntary involvement by means such as the internet or making consumer choices has become increasingly common.  

Young people's trust in the Finnish society has decreased in recent years. As recently as in 2008, nearly three out of four young people who responded to the Youth Barometer believed that Finland would be a good place of residence in the future; in 2016, the number of those with positive attitudes towards living in Finland in the future had dropped to 55 per cent. 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. The interpretation of the responses is not unambiguous and it is also affected by individual views of one's ability to act and achieve success in a foreign country.


This interpretation text was compiled by Markus Seppelin of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.