I was born 40 years ago in Helsinki. Finland wasn’t a wealthy place back then. GDP per capita that year was about $7,000. Over in neighboring Sweden GDP was over $11,000, for comps. “Suomi” was a small, relatively poor country.
During my lifetime, Finland’s population hasn’t dramatically changed. But GDP has skyrocketed more than 6x to $43,000. It’s been a good run. Not just in terms of wealth but on almost every other indicator you can think of. People live longer, fewer kill themselves, more report feeling happier.
So today, on the 100th anniversary of Finland’s independence, there’s a lot to celebrate.
But also things that worry me. Rising inequality being by far the biggest risk. It, coupled with bad governance, could wipe out all these gains in the remaining part of my lifetime. I really think they are reversible. Complacency and short-sightedness, such as devaluing basic research and the arts, and a rise in polarization, coupled with a reliance on tech, gives me concern.
But I’ll finish by singling out one stat: it’s the only country where fathers spend more time with school-aged kids than mothers. Being a dad of three, it’s the one indicator of the Finnish economy I feel I can throw some weight behind :)
Here’s to the next century forward. Happy 100th, Finland!