2018 OECD Economic Surveys: Finland 2018

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The Finnish economy is rebounding strongly after almost a decade of lacklustre economic performance. The revival in global growth and investment, coupled with competitiveness gains, is boosting exports. Consumption remains healthy despite slow income growth and both business and residential investment are buoyant. Nevertheless, a rapidly ageing population limits the long-term growth potential and weighs on public finances. Increased mobility of tax bases related to globalisation creates further challenges in raising revenue, while the tax system should also support growth, competitiveness and employment, and maintain its ability to contain income inequality. To ensure steady and inclusive growth, Finland’s employment rate, which is markedly lower than in the other Nordic countries, needs to be lifted. The welfare system has to generate strong work incentives, protect the vulnerable and adapt to a changing world of work. This Survey assesses the respective merits of introducing a universal basic income and streamlining the social benefit system in moving towards these objectives.


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Benefit reform for employment and equal opportunity

The combination of different working-age benefits, childcare costs and income taxation creates complexity, reduces work incentives and holds back employment. Major disincentives in Finland are related to tapering rules for unemployment benefits, social assistance and the housing benefit, the extended unemployment benefit for older workers, the childcare fee structure and the homecare allowance. Improved benefit design combined with efficient activation policies can reduce complexity and remove the strongest disincentives while minimising adverse fiscal and social impacts. Replacing current benefits with a basic income would improve incentives for some, but with a drastic redistribution of income and likely increasing poverty as a result. Merging working-age benefits with similar aims and coordinating their tapering against earnings would on the other hand drastically improve work incentives and transparency, while preserving social protection. Once the new income registry comes online, linking benefit payments to real-time incomes, combined with strengthened work incentives, would make for a truly efficient and inclusive benefit system, fit for the future of work.



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