OECD about Finland: How’s life?

Finland performs well in many measures of well-being relative to most other countries in the Better Life Index. Finland ranks at the top in education and skills, and above average in most dimensions: jobs and earnings, environmental quality, subjective well-being, personal security, social connections, housing and work-life balance.

Money, while it cannot buy happiness, is an important means to achieving higher living standards. In Finland, the average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 28 238 a year, less than the OECD average of USD 29 016 a year. There is a considerable gap between the richest and poorest – the top 20% of the population earn almost four times as much as the bottom 20%.

In terms of employment, 69% of people aged 15 to 64 in Finland have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 66%. Some 70% of men are in paid work, compared with 68% of women. In Finland, 4% of employees work very long hours, much lower than the OECD average of 13%, with 6% of men working very long hours compared with just 2% of women.

Good education and skills are important requisites for finding a job. In Finland, 87% of adults aged 25-64 have completed upper secondary education, higher than the OECD average of 76%. This is truer of women than men, as 84% of men have successfully completed high-school compared with 89% of women. Finland is a top-performing country in terms of the quality of its educational system. The average student scored 529 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This score is much higher than the OECD average of 497 making Finland one of the strongest OECD countries in students’ skills. On average in Finland, girls outperformed boys by 27 points, considerably more than the average OECD gap of 8 points.

In terms of health, life expectancy at birth in Finland is almost 81 years, one year higher than the OECD average of 80 years. Life expectancy for women is 84 years, compared with 78 for men. The level of atmospheric PM2.5 – tiny air pollutant particles small enough to enter and cause damage to the lungs – is 7 micrograms per cubic meter, considerably lower than the OECD average of 14.05 micrograms per cubic meter. Finland also does well in terms of water quality, as 94% of people say they are satisfied with the quality of their water, more than the OECD average of 81%.

Concerning the public sphere, there is a strong sense of community and moderate levels of civic participation in Finland, where 94% of people believe that they know someone they could rely on in time of need, higher than the OECD average of 88%. Voter turnout, a measure of citizens’ participation in the political process, was 69% during recent elections; slightly above the OECD average of 68%. Social and economic status can affect voting rates; voter turnout for the top 20% of the population is an estimated 74% and for the bottom 20% it is an estimated 61%, in line with the OECD average gap of 13 percentage points.

In general, Finns are more satisfied with their lives than the OECD average. When asked to rate their general satisfaction with life on a scale from 0 to 10, Finns gave it a 7.4 grade, higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

OECD (2015), How’s life? 2015: Measuring Well-being, OECD Publishing, Paris