Finland has a population of 5.5 million, around a million of whom live in the area in and around the capital city, Helsinki. Finland is a republic. The president, who is directly elected by the people, has real power over foreign affairs, EU policy and major military decisions. In all other matters, the parliament is the country’s highest authority. Finland is a member of the EU, and its currency is the euro. The country is not a member of NATO.
The forestry, technology and metal industries are Finland’s most important revenue sources. Finland is the world’s biggest producer of mobile phones.
Finland has transformed its economy in a matter of decades to become one of the richest countries and most stable societies in the world. In the 1950s the Finnish economy was still largely based on primary production and an agrarian workforce. Today Finland is leading or near the top of most international comparisons in terms of growth and development in the economic, technological and social spheres.
The largest sector of the Finnish economy services at 65%, followed by manufacturing and refining at 31%. Primary production is at 3%. Finland’s main industrial products are paper and board, electronics and metal products. Engineering and high technology industries are the leading branches of manufacturing.
Finland also enjoys the highest possible status with the global credit rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Moody’s as Standard & Poor’s ranks Finland AA+. According to the latest report from Fitch, Finland’s AA+ status “is underpinned by sound public finances, a solid external position, high income per capita, demonstrable political and social stability and an impeccable debt service record”.
Finland enjoys one of the world’s most advanced and comprehensive welfare, designed to guarantee dignity and decent living conditions for all Finns. The Finnish social security system reflects the traditional Nordic belief that the state can intervene benevolently on the citizens’ behalf. Core to the system is social insurance (ex. pensions, sickness & unemployment benefits, workers’ compensation), welfare (ex. family aid, child-care services, services for the disabled), and a comprehensive health system.
Social security is divided into residence-based social security and employment-based, earnings-related social security. Residence-based social security is financed by tax and administered by Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. Earnings-based social security is financed by contributions to private insurance companies and pension funds, and administered by the Finnish Centre for Pensions.
It is said, “to know the heart of Finns, you must read The Kalevala”. First published in 1835, The Kalevala is Finland’s national epic and draws from a rich oral tradition of folklore and mythology. Physician and philologist Elias Lönnrot travelled the Finnish-Russian borderlands recording the ballads and charms sung by the rural people. From there he assembled a fantastical tale of spells, love, war and revenge – a mythic history of the ancient Finns which fired the imaginations and national consciousness of the Finnish people, and became a foundation of Finnish cultural identity.