Measuring distance to the SDG targets – Finland

Finland has already achieved 26 of the 132 SDG targets for which comparable data are available and, based on most recent trends, it is expected to meet 9 additional targets by 2030 (Figure 1). As virtually all OECD countries, it has already met (or is close to meeting) most targets related to securing basic needs and implementing the policy tools and frameworks mentioned in the 2030 Agenda (see details in Table 1). In addition, Finland shows a high level of social inclusion, strong environmental performance, and good scores on innovation and research and development (Target 9.5). Still, challenges remain. For instance, Finland could do more to foster gender equality, reduce risk factors to health and expand the circular economy.

This country profile provides a high-level overview of some of Finland’s strengths and challenges in performance across the SDG targets. As such, it differs in nature from Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) or other reporting processes. To ensure international comparability, this assessment builds on the global indicator framework and relies on data from the SDG Global Database and OECD databases. VNRs typically use national indicators that reflect national circumstances and are more up-to-date (See section How to read this country profile that provides some methodological details on country profiles).

Social inclusion is high in Finland. Finland has one of the lowest poverty rates in the OECD, with the prevalence of relative income poverty at 7% in 2018 and of multidimensional poverty at 16%, in both cases 5 percentage points below the OECD average. While income poverty has been pretty stable over the past decades, multi-dimensional poverty appears to be on a downward trend (Targets 1.2 and 10.2). Such a low level of poverty is partly explained by the breadth of the redistributive system – the redistributive impact of Finland’s tax and transfer system is among the highest in the OECD (Target 10.4) – but also by its comprehensive social protection framework (Target 1.3). Beyond income, Finland also meets the criteria on migration policies to facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration, and on mobility of people (Target 10.7).

Finland shows strong environmental performances. Almost half of the country's electricity generation and of total final energy consumption comes from renewable sources (Target 7.2). Still, while improving, energy intensity remains comparatively high due to Finland’s cold climate, low population density and the large share of energy-intensive industry (Target 7.3). Beyond energy, Finland also reports good performances on other environmental targets. For instance, mean human exposure to PM2.5 in cities (at 6 µg per cubic meter in 2019) was below the WHO-recommended level, and has been decreasing (Target 11.6). When it comes to the protection of biodiversity, protected areas cover 13% of the total land and 12% of marine areas. Finland has therefore met the Aichi target of conserving at least 10% of marine areas but remains below the 17% target for terrestrial areas and inland waters. However, when including statutory protected areas on state-owned and private land, as well as the sites reserved for nature conservation, which are in the process of being officially created, and sites under “other effective conservation measures”, the target for terrestrial areas can also be considered as achieved. In addition, between two thirds and three quarter of freshwater, terrestrial and marine areas, and almost all mountain areas that are key for biodiversity, are already protected (Targets 14.5, 15.1, 15.4). Finland has also implemented some of the policy instruments listed under the Planet category, including by Targets 14.6 on harmful subsidies to fisheries, 15.6 on benefits from genetic resources and 15.8 on invasive alien species. While the loss of biodiversity is a global concern, the conservation status of major species in Finland is much better than in most OECD countries (Target 15.5).

Although health status remains high, behavioural risk factors are a challenge to people’s health. Finland’s population enjoys good access to health care, with a broad benefits package and low out-of-pocket payments (Target 3.8), while the mortality rate attributed to cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory disease is below the OECD average, thanks to its effective prevention policies (Target 3.4). Still, behavioural risk factors – especially poor nutrition, smoking, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption – are major drivers of morbidity and mortality in Finland. Adult smoking (Target 3.a) has been declining but 12% of the population still smoke daily. In addition, almost one third of the adult population is obese (Target 2.2). While alcohol consumption per adult is around the OECD average, around one-tenth of adults reported alcohol use disorders (Target 3.5).

Despite some strength, Finland could do more to foster gender equality. There is scope to improve the legal framework on gender equality – Finland is below the OECD average when it comes to the “overarching legal frameworks and public life”, “violence against women” and “marriage and family” dimensions but it is ahead of the average on “employment and economic benefits” (Target 5.1). Further, Finland has a legal framework that protects women from genital mutilation (Target 5.3). Beyond the legal framework, women bear the lion share of unpaid care and housework, although this gap is almost one hour below the OECD average (Target 5.4). They also remain underrepresented in economic spheres (Target 5.5) – only a third of managerial positions are held by women. Further, while more reliable information is needed, the available evidence shows that violence against women remains a serious problem (Target 5.2). In Finland, 8% of ever-partnered women and girls reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a current or former intimate partner in the previous 12 months, 3 percentage points above the OECD average. Still, cross country differences may reflect inadequate public resources for data collection, shame and fear by victims, as well as reluctance to identify and take action against the perpetrators.

More needs to be done to foster the circular economy. While all municipal solid waste is collected and more than 40% of municipal waste is fed back into the economy (Targets 11.6 and 12.5), Finland’s waste intensity (total amount of waste per capita) is the highest of the OECD. In addition, despite improvements in recent years, material consumption remains well above the OECD average and is among the highest in the OECD (Targets 8.4 and 12.2). Finland is performing around the OECD average on beach litter (Target 14.1).

Like in many other OECD countries, data availability remains a challenge when measuring distances to targets (see the Overview chapter for details). For Finland, available data on the level of the different indicators allow covering 132 of the 169 targets. As shown in Figure 2 below, indicator coverage is uneven across the 17 goals. While ten goals (within the People, Prosperity and Planet categories) have most of their targets covered (the indicator coverage exceeds 80%), coverage is lower for Goal 14 on life below water, with only half of its targets covered. Data gaps become starker when focusing on performance indicators, excluding those relating to contextual information. In this case, coverage exceeds 80% only for Goal 3 on health and Goal 4 on education. Moreover, for seven goals, mostly within Planet category (Goals 12, 13, 14 and 15) but also in Goals 5 on gender equality, 11 on cities and 17 on partnerships, data are lacking to monitor progress over time for more than two in three targets.

While some SDG Targets are, on average, close to being met, performance is very uneven across the 17 Goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Table 1 presents an overview of Finland’s progress towards targets based on available data for each of the 17 Goals. It shows that distances to Targets and trends over time differ significantly even when considering a specific goal.

The OECD report The Short and Winding Road to 2030: Measuring Distance to the SDG Targets evaluates the distance that OECD countries need to travel to meet SDG targets for which data are currently available. It also looks at whether countries have been moving towards or away from these targets, and how likely they are to meet their commitments by 2030, based on an analysis of recent trends and the observed volatility in the different indicators.

As most authors and international organisations, this report adopts a rather simple geometric growth model for assessing the direction and pace of recent changes in the context of the SDGs. Yet, instead of making direct estimates of the value of the indicator by 2030, it models the likelihood of achieving a specific level using Monte Carlo simulations.

While the report provides an overview of where OECD countries, taken as a whole, currently stand, country profiles provide details of the performance and data availability of individual OECD countries.

Progress on SDGs requires a granular understanding of countries’ strengths and weaknesses based on the consideration of the 169 targets of the 2030 Agenda. Figure 1 shows both current achievements (in the inner circle; the longer the bar, the smaller the distance remaining to be travelled) as well as whether OECD countries are on track (or are at least making progress) to meet their commitments by 2030 (in the outer circle).

The length of each bar shows current level of achievement on each target. As detailed in the Methodological Annex, countries’ distance to target is measured as the “standardised difference” between a country’s current position and the target end-value. For each indicator, the standardised measurement unit (s.u.) is the standard deviation observed among OECD countries in the reference year (i.e. the year closest to 2015). Therefore, the longer the bar, the shorter the distance still to be travelled to reach the target by 2030. The colours of the bars applied to the various targets refer to the goals they pertain to.

The outer ring shows how OECD countries are performing over time and how likely they are to meet the different targets by 2030 based on the observed trends of the various indicators. It uses stoplight colours to classify the progress towards the target:

  • green is used to indicate those countries that (based on the change in the different indicators over a recent period) should meet the target in 2030 just by maintaining their current pace of progress (i.e. more than 75% of (randomised) projections meet the target);

  • yellow for those countries whose current pace of progress is insufficient to meet the target by 2030 (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target, while the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is high and statistically significant, implying that a significant trend could be detected); and

  • red for those countries whose recent changes have been stagnating or moving them further away from the target (i.e. less than 75% of randomised projections meet the target and the correlation coefficient between the indicator and the year is low or statistically insignificant, implying that no statistical trend could be identified).

With the aim of helping its member countries in navigating the 2030 Agenda and in setting their own priorities for action, this report relies on a unique methodology for measuring the distance that OECD countries have to travel to achieve SDG targets. The identification of the main strengths and challenges proposed in this report relies on current performances only:

  • A target is considered to be a strength when the distance to the target end-value is lower than 0.5 s.u. (i.e. the distance is deemed to be small) or when the country is closer to the target than the OECD average. For instance, while Korea's distance to Target 2.2 on malnutrition is 1.4 s.u. (i.e. classified as medium distance), the average OECD distance is 2.5 s.u. Therefore, Target 2.2 is categorised as being a strength for Korea.

  • A target is considered to be a challenge when the distance to target is greater than 1.5 s.u. (i.e. distance is deemed to be long) or when the country is further away from the target than the OECD average. For instance, Estonia's distance to Target 4.2 on pre-primary education is 1.1 s.u. (i.e. medium distance), which is higher than the 0.24 s.u. distance for the OECD average. Target 4.2 is therefore classified as a weakness for Estonia.

While the lack of consistent time series often prevents an exhaustive assessment of trends, they are discussed when available and relevant in nuancing the assessment of current performance.

In total, this report relies on 537 data series supporting 183 of the 247 indicators listed in the global indicator framework (or for close proxies of these indicators). These indicators cover 134 of the 169 SDG targets. Yet, target coverage is uneven across the 17 goals and among OECD member countries.

Figure 2 summarises data availability:

  • darker blue bars indicate the share of targets for which at least one indicator (including indicators providing context information) is available

  • lighter blue bars indicate the share of targets for which the available indicator(s) include those having a clear normative direction (i.e. allowing to distinguish between good and bad performance), which are the only ones used to measure distances to target levels.

  • medium blue bars indicate the share of targets for which progress over time can be gauged (i.e. at least three observations are available over a five-year period).

All methods and concepts are further detailed in the Methodological Annex.

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