Country Profile: Finland
by Hermann Schwenger
Finland is best known in the political world for the EU presidency since June 1999, for European summits, and for President Martti Ahtisaari’s negotiations with Serbia’s President Milosevic during the NATO attack. On the other hand, most people generally associate Finland with Mika Häkinnen’s second Formula 1 championship, with Jean Sibelius Karelia suite or even with a scenic landscape made up of about 188 thousand (!) lakes (and billions of flies) or with the sauna. This EU-newcomer—since January 1995—only became an independent nation-state in 1917 and experienced much later than the other Western European countries industrialization, urbanization and welfare state development. Today, after a severe depression at the beginning of the 1990s, Finland tops European or even global rankings in many fields (social security, education, economic competitiveness).
Country and People
Finland is situated in northern Europe between the 60th and 70th parallels. A quarter of its total area lies north of the Arctic Circle. Finland’s border countries are : Norway (729 km), Sweden (586 km) and Russia (1,269 km), which is actually the eastern border of the EU. Its coastline (Baltic Sea, Gulf of Bothnia, and Gulf of Finland) is about 1,125 km. Nearly 10 per cent of the total area of 337,030 sqare km is water. 76 per cent of the land are forest and woodland, only 8 per cent is arable land. The terrain is mostly low, flat to rolling plains interspersed with lakes and low hills, with the Haltiatunturi (1,328 m) as highest point. The climate is cold temperate; potentially subarctic, but comparatively mild because of the moderating influence of the North Atlantic Current, the Baltic Sea, and the great number of inland lakes. Natural resources are timber, copper, zinc, iron ore and silver.
Finland is the fifth largest EU Member State in terms of area and has the lowest population density with 15 inhabitants per sqare km. About 65 per cent of the nearly 5.2 million inhabitants live in towns or urban areas, the Helsinki—most northern capital of the world—metropolitan area alone accounts for about one million people. Ethnically speaking, Finland is an extremely homogeneous nation. 6 per cent of the population speak Swedish (the second official language) and only 2,000 people has Sami (Lappish) as their mother tongue. 86 per cent are baptised as Lutherans, while nearly 1 per cent belong to the Finnish Orthodox Church. 12 per cent claim no religious affiliation. Finland has only 86,000 or 1.6 per cent—the lowest rate in the EU—foreign citizens with Russians being the largest group (about 20 per cent of the total) followed by inhabitants with Estonian, Swedish and Somali citizenship.
Finland has been inhabited for 10,000 years. When the first Swedish-speaking settlers arrived in the ninth century, the country was home to people (Finns in the South-West and Sami or Lapps in the North) speaking languages belonging to the distinctive Finno-Ugric linguistic group, unrelated to the more prevalent Indo-European family of languages.
The Swedish Reign
From the middle of the 12th century onward, the geographical area that is now Finland was disputed between catholic Sweden and orthodox Novgorod (Russia). The treaty of 1323 assigned only eastern Finland, i.e. Karelia, to Novgorod. The western and southern parts of Finland were tied to Sweden and the Western European cultural sphere.
The Swedish legal and social systems, above all personal freedom for the peasantry, were implanted in Finland. Since 1362, Finns take part in the election of the king of Sweden, and since the 16th century they send representatives to the Swedish Diet. The translation of the New Testament into Finnish in 1548 by the Bishop of Turku, Mikael Agricola brought the Reformation to Finland and created written Finnish. Until the beginning of the 18th century, Sweden extended its realm around the Baltic and pushed the Finnish border further east. The Finnish provinces were governed from the capital Stockholm and Swedes were often appointed to high offices in Finland, which strengthened the position of the Swedish language.
Finland as a Grand Duchy of Russia (1809–1917)
The rivalry between Sweden and tsarist Russia for Baltic dominance ended with a tsarist victory in the war of 1808–1809 and Sweden had to cede its Finnish provinces to Russia, where they became an autonomous Grand Duchy. The Grand Duke was the Russian Emperor, whose representative in Finland was the Governor General. Finland’s highest governing body was the Senate, whose members were Finns. Matters pertaining to Finland were presented to the Emperor in St. Petersburg by the Finnish Minister Secretary of State. This meant that the administration of Finland was handled directly by the Emperor. Russian Emperor Alexander I gave Finland extensive autonomy, thereby creating the Finnish state. The Lutheran Church retained its position in Finland, as did Swedish as the official language of the country. In 1812, Helsinki was made the capital of Finland, and the university, which had been founded in Turku in 1640, was moved to Helsinki in 1828.
The Finnish national movement increased during the Russian period. The Finnish national epic, the Kalevala, created by Elias Lönnrot, was published in 1835. The Language Decree issued in 1863 by Alexander II marked the beginning of the process through which Finnish became an official administrative language. But Swedish retained its dominant position until the beginning of the 20th century. From 1863 on the Finnish Diet met regularly and active legislative work in Finland began. The Conscription Act of 1878 gave Finland an army of its own. The Grand Duchy of Finland, part of the Russian Empire, but enjoying extensive privileges, was a state within a state, with its own Senate and its own Diet, its own local officials, legislation, army, money (the mark) and postage stamps. Russian nationalists always tried to obliterate the ‘Finnish Separatism’ and the Finns had to endure two waves of oppression (1899–1905 and 1909–1917). Nevertheless, in 1906 Finland got the most radical parliamentary reform in Europe, because Finland moved in one bound from a four estate diet to a unicameral parliament and universal suffrage. Finnish women were the first in Europe to gain the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
The Independent Republic
Favoured by the October Revolution in Russia and by the intervention of imperial Germany, the Finnish Parliament approved the declaration of independence on December 6, 1917. After a bloody civil war (more than 30,000 deaths) between the ‘red’ leftists and the ‘white’ rightists, which were supported by the United Kingdom and Germany, had ended on May 16, 1918, with the white victory, Finland became a republic (June 21, 1919) and, and K.J. Ståhlberg (1865–1952) was elected the first president.
Cumbersome inner reconciliation helped the independent republic to develop briskly during the 1920s. Although Finland first pursued a foreign policy based on cooperation with Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the League of Nations was already the cornerstone of Finnish security policy in the 1920s. When the inability of the League of Nations to safeguard world peace became evident in the 1930s, Parliament approved a Scandinavian orientation in 1935. In August 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non aggression pact, which included a secret protocol relegating Finland to the Soviet sphere of interest. When Finland refused to allow the Soviet Union to build military bases on its territory, the latter revoked the non aggression pact of 1932 and attacked Finland on November 30, 1939. The Winter War ended in a peace treaty drawn up in Moscow on March 13, 1940, giving southeastern Finland to the Soviet Union.
With Germany’s attack of the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Finland entered the war as a cobelligerent with Germany. The ‘Continuation War’ ended in armistice in September 1944. In addition to the losses of 1940, Finland also ceded Petsamo on the Arctic Ocean. The terms of the armistice were confirmed in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. A Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance was signed between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1948. Until the end of soviet communism, Finland’s active policy of neutrality gave it a strong international mediatory position between East and West. After the dissolution of the SU, Finland recognized Russia’s position as the successor to the Soviet Union and a treaty on good relations between the neighbouring countries was drawn up in January 1992. After becoming a full member of EFTA (1986) and the Council of Europe (1989) Finland became, after a 57 per cent positive referendum, together with Sweden and Austria, a full member of the EU in January 1995. Finland’s EU presidency since June 1999 pursues a Northern Dimension policy to enhance cooperation with Russia.
The Political System
Finland is a sovereign republic. The head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by direct popular vote for a period of six years and may serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. The President’s duties cover a large and varied political and administrative field. The President shares executive authority with the government, the Council of State. President Martti Ahtisaari was elected in 1994. The parliament (Eduskunta) has 200 members elected by universal suffrage every four years. After the elections of 1999 the Social Democratic Party had 51 parliamentary seats, the Centre Party 48, the National Coalition 46, the Left Wing Alliance 20, the Swedish People’s Party 12, the Greens 11 and the Christian League 10. The Rural Party and the Reform Party had one each. Presently, there are 74 women parliamentarians.
The Council of State, the Finnish government, must enjoy the confidence of the parliament. In Finland, the Prime Minister has relatively modest formal powers. These will be increased by a constitutional amendment in 2000 by diminishing those of the president. The multiparty coalition government formed in 1999 is headed by Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen, the leader of the Social Democratic Party. In administrative manner, Finland has five provinces (Lääni), one semi-autonomous province (Aland), 19 regions (maakunta), 90 state local districts (kihlakuntia) and 452 municipalities (kuntia).
Finnish industrial activity dates back to the 16th and 17th centuries, but Finland did not begin to evolve into a modern industrial state until after 1860. This growth was spearheaded by the sawmill industry. The pulp and paper industry joined in at a later stage. The wealth generated by the forest industry was reflected in society at large and propelled the development of other industries, notably textiles, metals and engineering. Development based on industrialization was reflected in a steep rise in gross domestic product (GDP), which continued unabated except during wars and other exceptional periods. Finland experienced 50 years of growth after the Second World War. War reparations to the Soviet Union in the form of industrial products contributed to transforming Finnish industry. A strong metal and engineering industry rose alongside the traditionally powerful forest industry. Shipyards were one of the prime success stories of this time. The forest industry looked westwards and was subject to cyclical ups and downs. Finland’s trade with its eastern neighbour dampened the effect of worldwide fluctuations within the forest industry. Metal products, textiles and clothing were exchanged with the Soviet Union for oil. World market prices for oil affected the volume of Finnish exports. Declining oil prices during the 1980s were the first warning of the fragility of Finland’s trade with its eastern neighbour.
The disintegration of the Soviet Union also caused the final collapse of the Finnish-Soviet trade. The resulting recession was more severe in Finland than elsewhere. Finland drifted into the recession that lasted through the first half of the 1990s by practising ‘casino’ economics. The deregulation of financial markets in 1986 led people to play the stock market and real estate prices skyrocketed. Interest rates rose. The government went heavily into debt and unemployment affected as much as one-fifth of the workforce. Waves of bankruptcy swept over industry; many small- and medium-sized enterprises went under. The banking system was saved only through extensive government support. The Nordic welfare state model was questioned. In Finland, the spiralling national debt was brought under control with a programme of budgetary austerity and Finland was in the end able to fulfill the EMU criteria with ease. The Government, together with the employer’s and the trade unions, has since received recognition for having steered the country through its worst economic crisis in recent history. Helpful, as in other nordic countries, was and is the highly developed system of economic and social consensus, i. e. social partnership, where the trade unions with an union density of over 80 per cent take a strong part. GDP grew by 4.8 per cent per year in 1995–1998 compared with 2.4 per cent for the EU. Exports made up 39.5 per cent of the GDP in 1998 (43 per cent metal and engineering products, 24 per cent paper and printing industry, 10 per cent chemicals, 8 per cent basic metal, 7 per cent wood and wood products). Information technology products (cellular phones!) accounted for 20 per cent of total exports. The EU area makes up 56 per cent of Finland’s exports and 60 per cent of imports. Main trading partners are: Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, USA and Russia.
Despite the upward trend in the Finnish economy in the late 1990s, the country continues to have an unemployment rate of around 10 per cent. On the other hand, there is also a shortage of certain kinds of labour, particularly in sectors requiring specially skilled employees.
And, is it also worth mentioning that the ubiquitous neo-liberal faith-healers continually complain about the rigid labour law, the welfare costs, tax burdens and subsidies.
On the Road to the Information Society
Finnish industry grew its third supporting leg in the 1990s. High technology represents, along with the forest sector and metal and engineering, a major source of export revenues and competes for the top position in Finnish export statistics.
In the past couple of years, Finland’s position as a communications superpower has been recognised worldwide. Finland leads the world in the number of cellular phone subscribers. Finnish mobile phone ownership edged above 60 per cent of the population in mid-February 1999, setting a new world record. In mid-February there were 3.1 million cellular phones in use. Finnish women complain that there are more cellular phones than men!
Another fast-growing sector is the use of the Internet. In 1998, Finland had about half a million Internet connections, i.e. about 100 per 1,000 inhabitants. This figure, too, is the highest in the world. 42 per cent of the households have a PC and nearly 20 per cent of the Finns aged 15–74 use the Internet daily. The payment system is the most advanced in the world. Over 80 per cent of all transactions are paperless.
Finland’s rise to this position is not a coincidence, but the outcome of a consistent development effort. Nokia, often mistaken for a Japanese firm, can be considered a model for the new technology’s rise to prominence. In a short period of time, the company went from paper all the way to mobile phones and telecommunications via televisions and computer terminals. From modest beginnings grew one of the world’s leading telecommunications groups.
Finland is known world wide in telecommunication circles for its deregulation. In addition to the nation-wide networks there are some regional networks available in the most populated areas. International telephone services were deregulated at the beginning of 1995. The costs of using telephones are considerably lower than in many other countries. Finnish universities have a nationwide network infrastructure, which is the most progressive in Europe. Other organizations, too, such as the Social Insurance Institution, has linked its local offices through a rapid network. The new technology should offer a better future for the ordinary person in Finland. Research, training, innovative operations and corporate finance should contribute to the construction of a better Finland. In recent years all the European Union countries have followed Finland’s example in the development of data communications infrastructure and the deregulation of the telecommunications sector. In these areas Finland has been, and will be, at the leading edge of development.
In April 1999, the Lausanne-based International Institute for Management Development, examining economic competitiveness in a broad sense, rates Finland in third place after the USA and Singapore. It was only in 1994 that Finland was still in 19th place.
Demography and Family
In the middle of the 16th century, Finland had 330,000 inhabitants and in the 17th century 400,000. At the end of the Middle Ages, there were six towns on the Finnish coast (Turku, Naanatali, Rauma, Porvoo, Käkissalrni and Viipuri). In the 1660s, the 21 towns in Finland had 25,000 inhabitants (about 7 per cent of the total population of the country).
Based on excellent demographic records since the 18th century, Finland’s demographic transition shows two dominant figures. In contrast to the other West-European countries, Finland experienced a relatively late nuptiality transition in the second half of the 18th century, i. e. late marriage and a high proportion of women remaining unmarried, and the fertility transition happened in a predominantly rural environment. Population trends in Finland in the 18th and 19th centuries were characterized by powerful fluctuations. The birth rate was close to 40 per 1,000 inhabitants and the death rate about 25 per 1,000. The development of agriculture and the expansion of urban trades accelerated population growth, while wars between Sweden and Russia, and disease and famine reduced the rate. It has been said that the last natural disaster to befall a European people took place in Finland at the end of the 1860s. The death rate rose temporarily to almost 80 per 1,000. The experience gained in the famine years led to structural change in the economy. Agriculture was made more efficient and it began to concentrate on livestock. The expansion of foreign markets and basic structural developments created a foundation for the modern forest industry. Public health also improved. Population growth in Finland increased, and it has been said that Finland had the highest rate in all of Western Europe at the time. In the 1870s and 1880s, Finland’s population increased by more than 15 per cent per decade. The population exceeded 2 million in 1880. Migration from the countryside to the towns increased. Before industrialization (in the 1860s), Finland had 33 towns with a total of 110,000 inhabitants (6.3 per cent of the population), but after industrialization began, the number of towns rose, numbering 38 by 1880, with a total of 174,000 inhabitants (8.5 per cent of the population). Industrialized society could not, however, absorb all the landless people who could no longer find work in the rural areas, and Finns therefore emigrated continously in great numbers. From 1860 to 1996 nearly 1.3 million Finns emigrated. About 575,000 to Sweden and about 410,000 to the United States and Canada. When Finland became independent in 1917, the population was 3 million. The birth rate was 25 per 1,000 and the death rate about 15 per 1,000. The age-structure was characterized by a large proportion of children; 35 per cent of the population were under 14 years of age, 60 per cent were of working age (15–64) and 5 per cent were elderly people. The population was, however, reduced by the Civil War in 1918 and by the general decline in living standards that followed. As Finland developed into a modern state, birth rates and death rates showed declining trends until the 1960s, when they stabilized at a low level. About 12–14 children are born annually per 1,000 inhabitants, while the death rate is about 9–10 per 1,000. Thus, the natural population increase in Finland has been very low in the last few decades, about 3 per 1,000. As in other western industrialized countries, the ‘baby boom’ which followed the Second World War is an exception. It took place in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the difference between birth rates and death rates during these years was around 10–15 per 1,000. More than 80,000 Finns died in the Second World War. Finland had to cede part of Karelia, the Petsamo corridor and some other areas to Russia. Furthermore, Finland lost more than 10 per cent of its industrial production facilities and had to accommodate more than 400,000 Karelians from the ceded areas in the remaining parts of Finland. In 1950 the population exceeded four million. Finland was still clearly an agrarian country, with more than 40 per cent of the population earning a livelihood from primary production. The same figure for industry was 29 per cent and for the service sector 22 per cent. The age structure in 1950 still showed a large proportion of children (0–15 years; 30 per cent), 63 per cent were of working age and 7 per cent were elderly people (over 64). The age structure placed special demands on the development of education. Post-war demographic structural changes have been quite radical in Finland. Particularly in the 1960s, Finland saw what may have been the fastest rural depopulation in the western industrial countries, and a corresponding change in the structure of the economy. More than 600,000 people were freed from primary production. Industry was no longer creating more jobs, but the tertiary sector absorbed some 300,000 new employees. In ten years, urban population figures increased by about 600,000 people, and the urbanization rate went up from 38.4 per cent in 1960 to 50.9 per cent in 1970 and 65 per cent in 1998. The Finnish population exceeded the five million mark in 1991. Finland’s population increases very slowly. The contribution of natural population growth to the increase is falling and migration is taking its place as the factor with the strongest effect on population growth. Finland, formerly a source of emigrants, is now becoming a destination for immigrants. The natural population growth is thus only 2 people per thousand inhabitants. The birth rate and natural population growth is higher in the north of Finland than in the south.
In 1998, nearly 41 per cent of the 1,393,793 families (married or cohabiting couples) had no children. Families with one child accounted for 44 per cent of the 625,000 families with children. 37.7 per cent of families have two children, 13.7 per cent have three children and 4.5 per cent have four or more children. In 1970, those with four or more children accounted for almost 10 per cent of all families. Families in the north of Finland are larger than families in the south.
Based on demographic data, it is apparent that the Finnish population is aging. This places growing demands on care of the elderly and pension schemes. The proportion of children (under 15) has dropped to 19 per cent, from 30 per cent in the 1950s, and the proportion of elderly people (over 64) has grown from 7 per cent in the 1950s to 14 per cent. The average life-expectancy of Finnish women is 80.3 years and of men 73.3. Primary production is now a source of employment for only 6 per cent of the population, while 27 per cent work in industry and construction and 67 per cent in trade and services. Finland’s most densely populated and urbanized areas lie in southern and southwestern Finland. Historically, these same areas have also been the core of Finland.
Finnish legislation guarantees the basic economic, social and education rights of every resident of Finland. Public administration—the State and local government—must ensure that these basic rights are achieved. From the perspective of social policy, the right to comprehensive social protection is among the most fundamental basic rights. Social protection encompasses pension and other income security, and social welfare. The Finnish social protection system is built on the Nordic welfare model whose central features are: the principle of universality, a strong public sector, tax funding, citizens’/residents’ rights are grounded in legislation, equal treatment, social benefits of a relatively high level.
Before the First World War, social policy, if at all, concentrated on averting and preventing misery. Poor relief, welfare for vagrants and alcoholics, child welfare and promotion of temperance were everyday tasks. Not until after independence in 1917 did Finland install a Ministry of Social Affairs—changed in 1968 into the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, as health care became its responsibility—as social affairs were shifted from the Commercial and Industrial Committee of the Senate. Social policy, i.e. developing insurance schemes for old age, disability or sickness was, however, very difficult in the atmosphere of the time. The general pension system was implemented as late as in 1937. It provided pension security for old age and disability. The post-war period was characterised by reconstruction work, helping those who had suffered in war or were disabled. Some of the most significant family policy reforms, such as child allowances, maternity grants and loans for starting a family, were carried out in the 1940s. The building of the welfare state began properly in the 1950s. The Social Assistance Act changed the policy from poor relief into social assistance. The National Pensions Act of the same year can be considered the most important social improvement of the decade. The employment pension system was developed simultaneously. An important step forward in the 1960s was the Sickness Insurance Act of 1964. It introduced the payment of a daily allowance and a maternity allowance to compensate for the loss of income, and a compensation for medical expenses and doctors’ fees. The social insurance system was also actively developed in its other sectors. In the 1960s and 1970s the Finnish welfare state was improved further. Besides social insurance, children’s day care, public health work, and alcohol and tobacco policies were developed further. In the prosperous years of the 1980s the development of the welfare state steadily increased. The social expenditure rate of the GDP went from 22.7 per cent in 1984 to over 35.4 per cent in 1993 falling back to about 27 per cent in 1999, which is below EU-average. This is due to the ups and downs of the GDP, but the governments since 1992 have been cutting social spending by almost 8.5 per cent, a reduction of FIM 18.5 billion. Unemployment and family benefits have undergone the most severe cuts in relative terms. Nevertheless, the Finnish Welfare State, the Nordic model, mastered the recent worst recession since 1930 well. Cuts did not widen the—for Nordic countries typical—low gap in income distribution. Depending on how it is measured, poverty increased, if at all, slightly, but remains at a low level unparalleled in the OECD countries.
The Finnish education system comprises comprehensive schools, postcompulsory general and vocational education, higher education and adult education. Voluntary pre-school education, 124,000 children in 1998, is at present provided under the day-care system. The language of teaching is Finnish or Swedish. Official bilingualism guarantees the Swedish-speaking minority equal opportunities in education at all levels.
The comprehensive school is a nine-year compulsory general schooling for all children aged 7–16, i.e. eligible for compulsory education. Pupils normally begin the comprehensive school at the age of 7. The lower stage of comprehensive school (primary education) consists of grades 1–6 and the upper stage of grades 7–9 (lower secondary education). A voluntary 10th grade is possible. The entire age group completes compulsory education, only approximately 0.04 per cent fail to receive a school leaving certificate.
All who have completed comprehensive school are equally eligible for further studies. Comprehensive education is free of charge for all pupils. Each municipality must provide comprehensive school education for their residents of compulsory school age. In 1998/99, 591,700 pupils were attending nearly 4,200 schools.
Upper secondary education is provided by upper secondary general schools or vocational schools and colleges. After leaving the comprehensive school, a young person may apply for a place at a general upper secondary school or a vocational school. In 1995, 54 per cent of those leaving a comprehensive school went straight on to study at an upper secondary general school and 31 per cent at a vocational school. Education is free of charge at both types of school.
Upper secondary general school provides general education to prepare the pupil for further studies. At the end of the 2–4 years of schooling at the upper secondary level, the pupil takes the national matriculation examination, which is the general eligibility criterion for university admission. Alternatively, the student may continue his or her studies at an newly installed AMK institution, which is academically similar to a British polytechnic, or obtain a post-secondary vocational diploma. The network of upper secondary general schools covers the whole country. In 1998/99, there were approximately 430 daytime upper secondary schools in Finland, with over 113,000 pupils. General upper secondary education is also provided for adults in evening classes.
Upper secondary vocational education is, since the beginning of the 1990s, in the process of reform. The apprenticeship scheme has been developed and education is being more closely integrated with working life. Vocational education covers some 160 qualifications. Obtaining a vocational diploma generally takes 2–4 years and makes the bearer eligible for study at a university. The vocational colleges will be gradually phased out as a part of the polytechnic reform. Most of the places in vocational education will then be transferred to the polytechnics and the educational level of vocational education will rise. In 1998/99 there were 327 vocational institutions throughout the country with 137,700 students.
Vocational higher education (tertiary education) is provided by polytechnics (AMK) launched in the 1990s with Parliament approved legislation making the AMK system permanent in March 1995. All those who have completed upper secondary general or vocational education are eligible to apply for admission to an AMK institution. Studies for a polytechnic degree take 3.5 to 4.5 years after the matriculation examination or some similar qualification. The degrees are of the same level as lower university degrees, but have a vocational orientation. They make their holders eligible for various specialized jobs. At present, the most popular subjects on the curriculum are technology, commerce and administration, and health care. In 1998/99, in 34 polytechnics 82,200 students were working towards diplomas.
Finland has 20 universities. Ten of them are multi-faculty institutions, and ten are specialized institutions, of which three specialize in economics and business administration, three in engineering and architecture, one in music, one in art and design, one in fine arts and one in theatre, drama and dance. Universities account for nearly 3 per cent of the State budget and for some 19 per cent of all spending on education, research and the arts. Some 60 per cent of the members of each age group are formally eligible for university admission. In 1998/99, there were 147,300 students attending universities. Since the early 1980s, the majority of students have been female (52.4 per cent in 1998/99).
Furthermore, there are more than 1,000 institutions and organizations engaged in Finnish adult education. Courses are offered in all parts of the country for 1.6 million adults annually. Adult education is provided by the regular education system, the liberal education institutions or organizations and also as in-service training. With 6.6 per cent of GDP expenditures for education (1995) and 2.78 per cent for R&D (1997) Finland ranked as one of the highest of the OECD countries. With 1.7 per cent of GDP expenditure alone on tertiary education Finland is top in the EU.
Social Data Production and Holdings
Since the territory of Finland was part of the Swedish kingdom until 1809, the origins of the Finnish system of population registration was very closely related to the Swedish system. In 1748, a government bureau was set up in Sweden for the purpose of compiling population statistics and a Royal letter ordered the parish clergy to improve their parish registers kept since 1686 in order to meet the standard of a uniform system of population statistics. Hence, population and vital statistics are available with high reliability. Finland received her own bureau of statistics in 1865, then under Russian rule. In 1884, the bureau was renamed the Central Statistical Office (CSO) of Finland. The same year, the series of publications entitled ‘Official Statistics of Finland’ became the joint forum for all producers of official statistics. In the Act on Statistics Finland from 24 January 1992 the CSO was renamed Statistics Finland. Statistics Finland is an independent government agency set up under the Ministry of Finance. The Director General is appointed by the President of Finland.
Statistics Finland is independent in its professional activities and may freely decide on the publication of its results as well as on the contents of its publications. About 65 per cent of official statistics in Finland are compiled by Statistics Finland and the rest by about 20 other government agencies, for instance by the Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry, of Health and Social Affairs, of Labour or by the Bank of Finland, who compiled and published enormous historical data on the economic history of Finland.
Statistics Finland, like other agencies, can claim to have one of the best population information system as regards its technical solutions and services offered. The population registration entered the computer era at the beginning of the 1970s, when the nation-wide central population register was established. Data on buildings and residences has been collected since the beginning of the 1980s. Population information is used for various purposes in society. The population information system contains the official information for the whole country on Finnish citizens and aliens residing permanently in Finland, and on buildings and residences and their owners. The system further contains data on real estate units and office and business premises. The population information system provides data to the administrative authorities and courts of law as well as for statistical and research purposes. Business enterprises and private citizens may obtain, for example, address information. The Population Register Centre, founded in 1969 and operating under the Ministry of the Interior, develops and controls the registration, maintenance and delivery of population information together with the local register offices. It is responsible for the national information services and makes decisions relating thereto. Information services are developed and tailored to meet the needs of the customers. Local register offices function as local authorities within the area of one or several judicial districts. Local register offices and their service units are responsible for the registration of data and they serve customers by issuing certificates and extracts as well as by providing local information services. Local register offices are also the local authorities for the Trade Register and the Register of Associations. The head of a local register office and its service units is the District Registrar, who also acts as notary public and marrying authority.
At the beginning of 1999, the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD), funded by the Ministry of Education, started to operate as a separate unit within the University of Tampere. FSD is a source centre for social science research and teaching. FSD provides a wide range of services from data archiving to information services. The main task of FSD is to increase the use of existing data in the social sciences by disseminating data throughout Finland and also internationally. The main functions of FSD include acquiring, storing and disseminating data for secondary research. FSD archives quantitative, machine-readable data covering a broad range of research in the social sciences. There is a great amount of quantitative data collected by researchers, research units at Finnish universities and other Finnish data producers in the area of social sciences for which FSD is the most natural archiving unit. The most significant data sets are checked, documented and stored at various levels.
As researchers deposit their data, the FSD database will become a major national resource for research data. FSD intends to offer all basic services free of charge.
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On-line information: http://virtual. finland.
Hermann Schwenger is documentalist/librarian of the Quellen-Informationsarchiv (QUIA) at the MZES and co-author of ‘Trade Unions of Europe. Structures, Sources and Research. A Reference Book’ (forthcoming 2000).