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OECD: health sector Finland’s problem

| Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s economic survey of Finland shows the country has done well during the debt crisis which has hit many Eurozone members. The country is not facing any imminent crisis, but needs a comprehensive reform of the state health sector.

“We don’t see any fiscal problems or budgetary problems. But there are long-term structural problems. The question is what can be done to fix them,” says Henric Braconier, one of the authors of the OECD’s survey of Finland.

Finland has taken longer than others to get out of the financial crisis and Nokia’s transformation has grave consequences for the social economy. Unemployment may be down, but the OECD predicts the trend could turn.

A lot to do

Braconier finds it worrying that Finland’s labour authorities take so much longer than other countries to target activation measures at the unemployed. This takes twice as long in Finland as in Denmark.

“More can be done here.”

OECD’s experts are waiting for the government to execute the planned restructuring of local authorities which will mean the number of municipalities will be reduced by one third or more from today’s 336. While the government says 70 to 100 municipalities will remain, the OECD suggests 30 to 50 municipalities would suffice.

The municipal restructuring should make the health sector more efficient, which in turn should reduce government spending. The level of care should be improved across the board to reduce regional health inequalities between socio-economic groups and regions, which are high by OECD standards. Finland’s health sector is not up to speed with the rest of the rich world, neither when it comes to productivity nor the ability to maintain a healthy population.

Work for longer

Braconier hopes the government will be able to deliver what it has promised. He also points out that Finland has greater problems with an ageing population than the rest of Europe, and therefore there is a need to increase the retirement age to 65 soon. The current retirement age is flexible, between 63 and 68. 

In conclusion the OECD encourages the Finnish government to cut public spending further and to increase taxes in the face of a too rapidly growing public deficit. This is a serious threat in the long term in view of the country’s demographic ageing.
The OECD’s views will not come as a surprise to the Ministry of Finance in Helsinki since these suggestions have already been presented to the innermost circle and the problem are all well-known and well-discussed. Yet there is still a considerable way to go before all this results in concrete decisions. 

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