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OECD trust survey provides recommendations for Finland on action to reinforce people’s trust in government and public institutions

Ministry of Finance
4.5.2021 9.38 | Published in English on 4.5.2021 at 10.53
Press release

The final report of a trust survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides current information on people’s trust in government and public institutions in Finland and sets out recommendations on how government and governance can be improved to build and maintain public trust. The final report was published today, 4 May, in an online event opened by Minister of Local Government Sirpa Paatero.

Significant differences in level of trust

 “Government exists to serve citizens. The legitimacy of a welfare state with extensive public admin-istration is based on people's trust that it will generate wellbeing. The OECD survey is valuable, as it tells us that government and public institutions are trusted, but at the same time it points out where we can make improvements, for instance in services,” says Minister of Local Government Sirpa Paatero.

In Finland there is a high level of public trust, and the country performs well in international comparisons of trust. The OECD report nevertheless shows that despite the high national average, public trust in different institutions varies. According to the survey, 66% of citizens trust central government (the ‘civil service’), 61% trust the Government in power, 53% trust Parliament and 52% trust local government. There are significant regional and demographic differences in these figures. Trust in government and public institutions is weaker for rural residents and among people with lower levels of education and income. If the disparities in trust deepen, this may weaken social cohesion and Finland’s ability to cope with the challenges of an ageing population, climate change, digitalisation and the transformation of work. 

Report points to Finnish paradox

Although people’s trust in public institutions and their satisfaction with democracy is high, the proportion who believe they can influence political processes is small (i.e. political efficacy is relatively low) compared to other high-trust countries. The OECD emphasises that potential marginalisation in certain population groups should be tackled by promoting broader social dialogue in Finland.

The OECD analyses the challenges related to trust in Finland and identifies opportunities to address them. The report’s recommendations for action focus especially on the ability of government to respond to people’s changing expectations and needs, and to future challenges. In addition to well-functioning, high-quality and accessible public services, it is essential to secure a stable economic environment. The OECD’s recommendations for government and public institutions relate to improving the measurement of trust, ensuring services meet people’s expectations and needs, more inclusive forms of policy preparation and decision-making, increased transparency, public integrity, and fairness and non-discrimination. 

Government actions in COVID-19 crisis influenced people’s trust

The OECD notes that in Finland people displayed a high level of trust in the Government’s ability to manage the COVID-19 crisis, keep the public informed and address the economic and social consequences of the pandemic. People with higher levels of trust in public institutions complied more willingly with the restrictions and guidelines imposed during the crisis. The OECD emphasises the importance of trust in dealing with and getting over a crisis.

Next steps

The OECD recommendations will be examined closely in a cross-government working group. The working group will determine which of the recommendations can be pursued in existing programmes or projects and which require further work or additional studies.

The OECD trust survey was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and carried out by the OECD Directorate for Public Governance. The survey also made use of other data and materials, such as a survey commissioned from Statistics Finland, the regular Citizens’ Pulse survey and the Lockdown Dialogues summaries. In addition, the OECD interviewed various representatives of Finnish public institutions, government and civil society, as well as researchers.

Inquiries:

Katju Holkeri, Senior Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 530 087, katju.holkeri(at)vm.fi
Onni Pekonen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 530 616, onni.pekonen(at)vm.fi