Trust is essential to the proper functioning of democracy. It is also essential to the success of public policies and for maintaining social cohesion.As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, trust makes a big difference in citizens’ willingness to comply with restrictive measures aimed at stopping the spread of the virus. High levels of institutional trust have allowed some governments to focus their efforts and resources on limiting the socioeconomic consequences of these measures, and on drawing important lessons that will help mitigate future shocks. A government’s ability to harness public trust is critical for planning and implementing an inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 crisis; and it is key to reinforcing democracy.

To gain and retain citizens’ trust, however, governments must understand what drives it and what undermines it. To this end, the OECD has developed a unique policy and analytical framework for understanding and measuring the key drivers of public trust along two dimensions. First, competence – a government’s responsiveness, and its reliability in delivering public services and anticipating needs. And second, values – a government’s principles of integrity, openness and fairness. Finland is the second country – after Korea in 2018 – to apply this framework and take a closer look at what drives citizens’ trust in its public institutions. The scope of this study was adapted to the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, provides a model for future case studies.

Levels of public trust in Finland are currently among the highest in OECD countries. During the COVID-19 crisis, Finns’ trust in different levels of government and in the civil service remained high, contributing to the national policy response to the pandemic. Nevertheless, there have been indications of a slow but steady decline of trust in government since 2007. This trend, alongside slower economic growth and comparatively low levels of productivity, is worrisome. Tackling these challenges, along with possibly even bigger ones such as climate change, biodiversity loss and socioeconomic transformations (e.g. ageing, diversification of the society, increasing wealth inequality), will require both the support and the trust of citizens. The findings and recommendations of this report will help guide public administrations in these endeavours.

This study is an important part of the continuous dialogue among OECD member countries and partners on how to build and maintain trust. Moreover, it is a major step forward on the path to developing more and better comparative evidence on public trust and its drivers. At the OECD, we are convinced that the example and experience of Finland will serve as a benchmark and inspiration for other countries. Finally, we would like to stress our firm and shared belief in the importance of trust in public institutions as a requisite for democratic stability and a fast and sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.



Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General



Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2021

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at