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Poll: Finnish support for development aid at 10-year high

An annual poll commissioned by the Foreign Ministry indicates that 90 percent of Finns feel that development aid is somewhat or very important.

Lapset istuvat ruokasäkkien vieressä Kabulissa.
Children in Kabul, Afghanistan with World Food Programme aid. Image: Hedaya Tullah Amid / EPA

The Finnish Foreign Ministry's latest yearly poll shows a five percent increase year-on-year in the number of Finns who feel that the development aid that Finland provides is somewhat or very important. A full 90 percent of respondents to the 2018 poll felt this way, suggesting that the country's support for the work is at a ten-year high.

"We have noticed over the years that people's attitudes towards development aid are clearly linked to the economy. Earlier in the decade, the Finnish economy was in bad shape after a significant downturn, and the financial problems that were roiling the country were seen as more important than development aid. But as things start to improve, people are now more prepared to allocate money for development work," says Juho Rahkonen, research director for Taloustutkimus, the pollster that carries out the annual survey for the ministry.

Rahkonen estimates that the change of heart can also be ascribed to the increasingly unstable world situation and the fact that people have access to more information on the globe's conflicts and crises.

Much to offer in the field of education

The 2018 survey also shows that Finns trust in the ability of education to make a difference. A clear majority of the respondents to the poll said that Finland would have the most to offer in the fields of education and the development of know-how.

"This kind of strengthening of human capital is a very modern way of thinking from the Finns. The idea is that once education is fixed, and girls are attending school, then many other problems such as population growth will be solved. Finns no longer think that development work is about building a fresh-water well and sewer system for some village in the savannah," Taloustutkimus' Rahkonen says.

Women and students show most support

The poll's findings suggest that 15 to 39 year olds feel development aid is more important than 40 to 79 year olds in Finland. Some 54 percent of school and university students feel it is very important, while 37 percent feel it is somewhat important.

The gender gap is also noticeable: 93 percent of women support Finnish development aid, compared to 83 percent of men.

Respondents with Left Alliance, Green and Social Democratic political party allegiances are clearly in more support of development aid, while Finns Party supporters are most opposed. But even among Finns Party adherents, 71 percent of those responding to the poll agreed that development aid was important.

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