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Rich and poor agree: Benefits make people passive

According to the result of a poll by public broadcaster Yle, a majority of Finns believe that the country’s current social benefits system makes recipients passive. The finding cuts across almost all income groups and comes from a survey aimed at determining which issues unite and divide Finnish society.

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Finns agree that in its current form, Finland's benefits system does not encourage recipients to get out and find work. Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

Some 56 percent of Finns believe that Finland’s social security system doesn’t just help people through difficult times, it traps them in a certain cycle.

“Our social benefits system is structured so that it doesn’t encourage them to take responsibility for themselves,” said former International Development Minister Heidi Hautala, summing up the views of a majority of her compatriots.

The question was one of many issues tackled by an Yle poll, “Fragmented Finland”, designed to map out societal values and to determine areas on which Finns are united and where they differ.

Researchers also interviewed four different Finnish personalities, including former Green party chair and ex-minister Heidi Hautala, Finns Party parliamentarian Olli Immonen, media personality Tuomas Enbuske and Nina Mikkonen, wife of well-known Finnish television host and producer Timo T.A. Mikkonen.

Finns Party MP Olli Immonen shared the views of former minister Hautala.

“Of course I believe that our social benefits should be adjusted to that it encourages people to work. Nowadays too many, specifically young adults choose the option of that they remain hooked on support rather than going out to work,” Immonen added.

Nina Mikkonen, the wife of media producer-presenter Timo T.A. Mikkonen disagreed, however. She believed that having to resort to public support is so humiliating that only a marginal group would choose a life on benefits.

For her part, Hautala proposed replacing the current social benefit with a citizen’s wage, a long-time platform of the Green League, and an idea recently espoused by the right-leaning independent think tank Libera. The Finns Party’s Immonen also said he would like to see this proposal added to the national discussion agenda.

Too much state protection

The survey revealed that as many as 50 percent of respondents believe that Finland is too paternalistic, while as many believe that support is important. Neither income level nor social status appeared to affect respondents’ views.

The issue was also important for media personality Tuomas Enbuske, known for his liberal economic views.

“It is much easier to accept different tastes in areas such as fashion or music. When we start talking about morals, it’s easy to get into circular reasoning, in other words, this is wrong, because that is wrong,” Enbuske pointed out.

“As long as it doesn’t bother others, people should be able to do what they want. Above all, every limitation on individual freedom should be properly justified,” he added.

Enbuske pointed to the example of opening hours for bars. He speculated that when bars are allowed to remain open until 4.00 am, people would tend to stay there until closing time, rather than leaving early. He believes that restricting hours of service would be in everyone’s best interest.

Meanwhile Nina Mikkonen held a different view on the paternalistic state. “We have sufficient freedoms to allow us to get by. If someone comes up with some kind of terrible injustice, Finns will protest!” she declared.

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