Finland aims to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or marginalisation by 100,000 by 2030, with children comprising at least a third of that number.
On Wednesday the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced an action plan to reduce poverty and social exclusion. According to the plan, Finland should focus on curbing poverty among pensioners and families with children.
The blueprint is intended to ensure the country's compliance with an EU target of cutting the number of people at risk of poverty or marginalisation by at least 15 million by 2030.
Better integration support for immigrants
Krista Kiuru (SDP), who resumed her post as Minister of Family and Basic Services last week, said at a press conference on Wednesday that while the family poverty situation in Finland is better than in many EU countries, it remains a problem.
"The effects of poverty in families with children extend to many areas: the child's education and level of education, as well as the labour market status in adulthood. Poverty may even be inherited, and that is why it is particularly important to intervene," Kiuru told reporters in Helsinki.
The sweeping plan calls for improvement of the social security system and the integration system for immigrants, as well as continuing efforts to prevent homelessness, over-indebtedness and poverty among the elderly.
"Work does not automatically lift someone out of poverty"
Minister of Social Affairs and Health Hanna Sarkkinen (Left) pointed out that attention must also be paid to the working poor.
"Work does not automatically lift someone out of poverty," she said.
According to Sarkkinen, the key to reducing the number of people at risk of poverty and social exclusion is to plan and implement actions on a long-term basis.
"We need a commitment to increase basic security that goes beyond one election period," Sarkkinen said. The centre-left government's four-year term ends next spring.
The ministers estimated that there are up to 800,000 people at risk of poverty and marginalisation in Finland. That is more than 14 percent of the population of 5.6 million, or roughly one out of seven residents.
In EU terms, Finland's reduction need is based on figures from 2019. At that point, according to Eurostat statistics, there were 838,000 people at risk of poverty or marginalisation in Finland.
The most recent figures are from 2021, when 773,000 people in Finland were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. In other words, a significant proportion of the target may have already been achieved.
Naturally, the numbers are affected by economic cycles and other factors – such as the knock-on effects of the pandemic and Russia's attack on Ukraine. For instance, the Social Insurance Institution (Kela) estimates that war-related inflation has boosted the number of poor people in Finland by 62,000 in just over half a year.
"It is difficult to estimate how much of the reduction in the number of people at risk of poverty or marginalisation can be attributed to the merits of this government, Sarkkinen conceded.
In the future, member states must report annually to the EU on progress toward the poverty and social exclusion reduction goal. In Sarkkinen's view, this in itself will encourage governments to be more systematic about such measures.
"Personally, I hope that the goal of reducing poverty will become a key metric at the core of political decision-making," said Sarkkinen.
The EU's calculations are based on the "at risk of poverty or social exclusion" scale (AROPE). According to this, people are at risk of poverty if their household income is less than 60 percent of the median national equalised income.