The latest statistics indicate positive developments in poverty in recent years: low income has fallen, as has the number of homeless people. The number of social assistance recipients has also begun to decline.
With the abatement of the Covid pandemic, employment figures for 2021 and 2022 have improved and the number of long-term unemployed has also come down. Poverty among pensioners has continued to fall. The effects of the pandemic on poverty were mitigated successfully by temporary extensions and increases in social security, yet the pandemic can have also far-reaching impacts on poverty.
Finland has one of the lowest low-income rates in the EU. Concurrently with these good developments, however, there are signs of deepening poverty or increase in severe deprivation: for example, more people are now reliant on basic social security and more people are also seeking food aid. Household debt has increased as well. The rising cost of living makes it particularly difficult for people on low incomes to make ends meet.
Although child poverty has decreased slightly, it remains high. Poverty of families with children is particularly worrying because its impacts on the lives of individuals and society as a whole are far-reaching and long-lasting. Single-parent families are in many ways worse off than other families: for example, they experience more poverty than others in spite of being employed, and they are over-represented among social assistance recipients.
The majority of single parents are women. One low-income group that clearly stands out and is growing is single-headed households. People with a migrant background also experience higher levels of poverty than other groups.
Finland is doing fairly well in poverty assessments compared with other countries, and yet there are individuals in this country – deemed the happiest country in the world – who struggle for survival. In spite of efforts, the number of people in the low-income bracket or at risk of poverty has not diminished significantly in recent years. The latest figures are from 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 is expected to worsen the situation.
Poverty Watch Main Findings
Most affected groups
Families with children
People with immigrant background
Single person households/single parents
People with disabilities
- Action plan for the reduction of poverty and exclusion, with a special focus on mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on the most vulnerable groups
- Basic social security must be raised to a level that guarantees a reasonable minimum standard of living
- Reform of social and health services is needed to narrow differences in health and wellbeing
- Families with children need adequate income and services
- The cost of illness to the patient needs to be reduced
- Customer-oriented services for the unemployed and larger appropriations for employment services
- People with disabilities and long-term illnesses should have access to the world of work
- The economic situation of carers must be improved
- More support for affordable rental housing is needed
- More economic and debt counselling must be provided, along with social lending
E-mail: eria.saarinen (@) soste.fi