OECD Territorial Reviews

1990-0759 (online)
1990-0767 (print)
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This series offers analysis and policy guidance to national and subnational governments seeking to strengthen territorial development policies and governance. These reviews are part of a larger body of OECD work on regional development that addresses the territorial dimension of a range of policy challenges, including governance, innovation, urban development and rural policy. This work includes both thematic reports and reports on specific countries or regions.

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OECD Territorial Reviews: Helsinki, Finland 2003

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29 Apr 2003
9789264199620 (PDF) ;9789264199613(print)

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The Greater Helsinki Region emerged from the 1990s as an internationally competitive economy. This review examines the factors contributing to this success and the new development challenges it has created. One critical policy question is the Finnish dependence on the telecom/mobile industry. The current strategic positioning of the Finnish ICT cluster builds on a high-return/high-risk scenario. Long-term regional competitiveness requires a more focused strategy of diversification, i.e. developing ICT activities beyond the current cluster scope. Social inclusion is another crucial issue. Persistent unemployment among the less educated population and growing income disparities are calling for the restructuring of past policies. The Greater Helsinki Region needs to find ways to promote new opportunities of social cohesion. Rapid population growth has resulted from greater economic competitiveness requiring renewed commitment to managed growth and compact development. All of these challenges create needs for greater metropolitan co-ordination that are examined in turn.

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  • Assessment and Recommendations

    Helsinki and its surrounding region emerged from the 1990s as an internationally competitive economy that had seemingly grafted the requisites of the "New Economy" onto the bedrock principles of the Nordic welfare state. Although the robustness of this model is still uncertain, the accomplishment is notable in providing a concrete example of globalisation dynamics that have been compatible with a significant scope for government...

  • Is Competitiveness Compatible with Egalitarian Norms?

    Prior to the competitive success of the Finnish economy in the latter half of the 1990s the implicit social contract in the country was both simple and widely shared. High marginal tax rates in combination with legal rights to a comprehensive set of social services ensured one of the most egalitarian economies in the world seemingly willing to bear the costs of slower economic growth. The severe economic crisis of the early 1990s – indeed, the deepest recession experienced by any OECD member country in the post-war period – forced a critical reassessment of this social equation. Most importantly, the strong rationalist orientation of Finnish governance was unseated by the economic uncertainty that gripped all sectors and social strata of the country....

  • Constraints and Potentials of Territorial Development

    The definition of the Greater Helsinki Region is based on four main factors: co-operation between different actors, commuting (travel-to-work area), connectivity and using NUTS 3 regions as building blocks. This study is a first attempt to describe Helsinki and its adjacent regions as a whole.1 The Greater Helsinki Region consists of four regions: Uusimaa, Itä-Uusimaa, Häme (former Kanta-Häme) and Päijät-Häme, classified by the European Union as NUTS 3 regions (Figure 2.1). The 1 757 000 inhabitants living in these regions constitute approximately one-third of Finland’s entire population. Three-fourths of the Greater Helsinki Region’s population lives in Uusimaa. Within the Greater Helsinki Region, these NUTS 3 regions are further divided into ten NUTS 4 sub-regions (Table 2.1). The central part of the region comprising Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen forms the Helsinki Metropolitan Area populated by 965 000 inhabitants. With its 560 000 inhabitants, the capital city Helsinki is the largest city in Finland....

  • Spatial Planning and Design

    The Helsinki region sets a very high standard in urbanistic, governmental, economic, environmental, social, educational, cultural and architectural terms. Both the city and surrounding municipalities have achieved great success in many dimensions and many areas. The metropolitan region is well planned, with carefulland use and a balanced and efficient transportation system. The municipal governments are competent and increasingly co-ordinated. The region’s economy has been robust, fast-growing and internationally competitive. The Finnish respect and love for the natural environment has ensured that the land has remained thickly forested and the waters ecologically healthy. Social services are among the best in the world, with exceptionally high social security, welfare and equality. Education, free from daycare to university, is universally available and of high quality, augmented by an extensive library system...

  • Fiscal Implications for Development

    Like the other Nordic countries, Finland has a large public sector that provides a generous set of social services. In addition, it relies heavily on local governments to deliver those services. Although heavy reliance on local governments to provide social services is inconsistent with standard models of fiscal federalism, Finland manages this arrangement by imposing quite high standards in the form of "recommendations" from the centre and by efforts to equalise the revenue- raising capacity of the various districts. In some ways, the system is best described as one in which the municipalities serve as agents of the state rather than as one of autonomous local governments making their own decisions about service quality...

  • Guaranteeing Social Inclusion

    As a result of a deep-rooted tradition of social equity and integration, the Finnish welfare state has limited social inequalities within the Helsinki Metropolitan Area in contrast with other European or American cities marked by a clear spatial concentration of poverty and exclusion in deprived neighbourhoods. The substantial increase in long-term unemployment induced by the recession in the early 1990s has begun to challenge this model of social integration. Despite the high degree of homogeneity that prevailed in the Helsinki region, some disparities seem increasingly salient and reflect the possible emergence of a multidimensional segregation process within the area...

  • Regional Competitiveness with a Special Focus on the ICT Sector

    The case of the Greater Helsinki Region (GHR) exemplifies the complexity of the events and interactions that cross economic, social and political spheres and lead to the emergence and sustainability of an ICT cluster. This cluster is both the result and major driver of the internationally known Finnish Information Society (Box 6.1). Its very nature and the challenges it faces can be better appreciated from a comparative perspective. Thus, the focus of this chapter is neither on the Finnish ICT cluster nor the GHR ICT cluster per se. Rather, the emphasis is on assessing the relevance  of development of selected ICT centres (Portland, Oregon; Dublin, Ireland;and Tel Aviv, Israel) for the GHR ICT cluster (see Annex 1). Despite the unique formation and evolution of each of these cases, the comparison provides further insight to the peculiar environment and drivers found in high-tech clusters. Likewise, this analysis highlights both challenges and threats faced by ICT-intensive areas providing lessons from which the Finnish ICT cluster could benefit (see Annex 1). Three principal aspects will be addressed in this chapter. The first part is contextual and historical. It sets a framework for the analysis of the factors related to the emergence of ICT clusters and compares the different development paths found in Portland, Dublin and Tel Aviv with the experience in Helsinki. The second part is strategic. It identifies current challenges and threats faced by the Helsinki ICT cluster vis-à-vis the experiences of the comparison regions. In the final part, policy recommendations will be proposed to ensure the competitiveness of the Helsinki ICT cluster in light of the three comparison regions’ experiences, as well as international developments in the ICT clusters more generally....

  • Urban Governance and Metropolitan Co-ordination

    The system of constraints and opportunities for cities is changing. The pressures exerted by the state, and by the whole society, toward uniformity and homogenisation have become less distinct. At the same time, local authorities in Europe have to face changes brought about by integration, economic globalisation, individualisation, growth pressures of conurbations, state restructuring, and competition. Within cities, problems and priorities are beginning to be articulated differently from those that exist for the rest of the country. Actors’ interests, perceptions, and strategies are diverging. Redrawing the boundaries of the political playing field has the direct or indirect effect of repositioning cities, especially the largest of them, within states. Close links, developing transversely with other European cities and vertically with the EU, have impacts on the way city councils organise. Elected representatives – especially the most important of them, the mayor or equivalent – are being given a more important role in representing the city to the outside world and in building links between interests...

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