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Finland, some thoughts…


Finland & Capital City, Helsinki


When David Shearer mentioned Finland in his speech on 15 March,  the right wing were quick to leap onto that reference and gleefully point out that our Finnish cuzzies had elected a right wing government, which had part-privatised some of it’s own state own enterprises. A grinning, mocking,  John Key made a Big Thing of it in the Debating Chamber (see video at 2:10), in a response to a ‘patsy’ question from National MP, Michael Woodhouse.

As usual, John Key told us only half the story. (What else is new?)

It is quite true that the centre-right party, imaginatively called – The Centre Party– and it’s Keysque leader, Esko Aho, were elected into office in 1991. It’s also true that The Centre Party and Aho were thrown out of office after just one term.

It seems that the Finns had little appetite for Right Wing governments.

And last year’s elections resulted in the Centre Party drop from the largest single party in the Finnish Parliament, to the fourth, it’s support dropping from 23.11% to 15.82%.

The Finns has ‘flirted’ with right wing governments, it’s true. But generally that flirtation results in a quickie-divorce.

Finland does indeed hold  lessons for New Zealand. As well as having a benevolent social welfare system;  a higher rate of personal income (Finland: $35,885  – New Zealand: 28,409); and one of the highest standards of (free) education in the world – they also have a low tolerance for right wing governments that attempt to mess with their Scandinavian model of social democracy.

In Finland, they hold the teaching profession in high regard and pay them well. Here in New Zealand, certain political and public elements prefer denigration and questioning if teachers are paid too much. Charming.

This is worth thinking about,


The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade schools prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasiums have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Helsinki University is ranked 75th in the Top University Ranking of 2010.

The World Economic Forum ranks Finland’s tertiary education #2 in the world. Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%). The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.

More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Forest improvement, materials research, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications showcase fields of study where Finnish researchers have had a significant impact.

Finland had a long tradition of adult education, and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were receiving some kind of instruction each year. Forty percent of them did so for professional reasons. Adult education appeared in a number of forms, such as secondary evening schools, civic and workers’ institutes, study centers, vocational course centers, and folk high schools. Study centers allowed groups to follow study plans of their own making, with educational and financial assistance provided by the state. Folk high schools are a distinctly Nordic institution. Originating in Denmark in the nineteenth century, folk high schools became common throughout the region. Adults of all ages could stay at them for several weeks and take courses in subjects that ranged from handicrafts to economics.

Finland is highly productive in scientific research. In 2005, Finland had the fourth most scientific publications per capita of the OECD countries. In 2007, 1,801 patents were filed in Finland. ” – Wikipedia


Unlike New Zealanders, who seem to tolerate right wing policies that ultimately do more harm than good (and then leave us wondering why we’re in such a mess) – Finns boot their right wing governments out faster than you can say ‘Don’t let the door hit your neo-liberal arse on the way out‘.

Shearer was right. We can learn from our cuzzies in Finland.

But we probably won’t.



OECD Country statistical profile:  New Zealand 2011-2012

OECD  Country statistical profile:  Finland 2011-2012



= fs =

  1. Matthew
    21 March 2012 at 11:27 am

    1991 – that’s disingenuous. Key is full of shit.

  2. 21 March 2012 at 11:45 am

    1991 is an interesting year, Mathew. It was the time of a global recession (including here in NZ) and I suspect people were looking for alternative answers to beat the effects of a global downturn in economic activity.

    National was elected at the end of 1990, and Ruth Richardson released her infamous “Mother of All Budgets”, which cut government spending; slashed welfare benefits; further depressed the economy; and pushed up unemployment past 10%.

    So like the Finns, we elected a right wing government as well.

    Unlike the Finns, we kept re-electing right wing extremist government until the electorate finally comprehended the obvious; we were self-flagellating ourselves for no discernible gain.

    Finns: lesson learnt in four years.

    Kiwis: lesson learnt in ten.

    No wonder the Finns are better at education than us.

  3. 21 March 2012 at 1:27 pm

    I’d much rather we follow a Scandinavian model, any Scandinavian model (of politics, not the clothes horse type, don’t let me get diverted), rather than the USA-lite version of right-leaning capitalism that is currently being entrenched.
    Of course, the Elephant in the Room is always the dreaded ‘higher taxes’, a card played by the powerful to scare the struggling yet aspirational middle-classes; this tactic is without merit since, as is obvious from any passing observation of Scandinavian countries, social spending which lowers the barriers between sectors of society results in greater societal cohesion – it is the basis of an equitable social contract.

    However, of JonKey wishes to denigrate any suggestion that we should be more like Finland, perhaps he should remember that we can always be more like Iceland.
    I quite fancy stoning Parliament, driving the scoundrels from office, letting the banks fail because of their institutionalised greed and corruption, and forging a new consensus-based constitution through open-source communication.

    But that’s just me.

  4. 21 March 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Y’know, Duncan, the question I almost always ask myself is why ordinary folk like you, me, and others can see the blindingly obvious – but it seems to elude Dear Leader and other elected representatives?!?!

    Sometimes I think we should become a colony of one of the Scandinavian nations (like Greenland) and let them sort out our inability to set a sensible socio-economic direction.

    “I quite fancy stoning Parliament, driving the scoundrels from office, letting the banks fail because of their institutionalised greed and corruption, and forging a new consensus-based constitution through open-source communication.”

    As long as those scoundrels pay for the stones. User Pays, y’know.

    Seriously though, you’re quite right. We should be looking at the Scandinavian model, rather than the Reaganist/Thatcherite extremes. (Thatcher didn’t even believe in a society.)

  1. 22 March 2012 at 10:49 pm
  2. 30 September 2012 at 5:35 pm
  3. 2 October 2012 at 8:50 am

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