The Nordic Welfare State and the Development of Northern Finland

In: The Yearbook of Polar Law Online
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  • 1 Public Law, University of Lapland
  • 2 Public International Law, University of Lapland

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This article provides an overview of the legal regulation involved in building – and dismantling – the Nordic welfare state in Finland. Within this context this article details how legislative reforms have been reflected in the development of Northern Finland, as well as the effects on the Sami population and a comparison between Nordic countries.

The Nordic welfare state was implemented in Finland primarily through parliamentary legislation. Human and fundamental rights played no role in the process of building the welfare state. The beginning of the 1990s marked the end of what had been massive build-up of the public sector. Over the last 20 years or so we have seen cutbacks in municipal services such as schools, healthcare centres, and social services.

The future of municipal government in Finland looks very different than it did when the welfare state was being created. We may well be facing a bleak future with weaker municipalities, fewer public services, less state funding for municipalities, less manoeuvring space in relation to the state, and more privatisations. Wise structural reforms might be the way ahead if we want to create functional regional and local governance and thus to guarantee the future of the Nordic welfare state in Finland.

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