Danny Dorling, Annika Koljonen
In 2018, the World Happiness Report ranked Finland the world's happiest country, both for its total population and for the immigrants living there. The United States and the UK were placed eighteenth (fifteenth for immigrants) and nineteenth (twentieth for immigrants), respectively.
The Nordic Model has long been touted as the aspiration for social and public policy in Europe and North America, but what is it about Finland that makes the country so successful and seemingly such a great place to live? Is it simply the level of government spending on health, education and welfare? Is it that Finland has one of the lowest rates of social inequality and childhood poverty, and highest rates of literacy and education? Finland clearly has problems of its own – for example, a high level of gun ownership and rising rates of suicide – which can make Finns sceptical of their ranking, but its consistently high performance across a range of well-being indicators does raise fascinating questions.
In the quest for the best of all possible societies, Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen explore what we might learn from Finnish success and what they might usefully learn from us.
Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford. He is a Fellow of St Peter's College, Oxford, an Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and a former Honorary President of the Society of Cartographers. His books include, most recently, Do We Need Economic Inequality? (2018) and A Better Politics: How Government Can Make Us Happier (2016).
Annika Koljonen is a final-year student in Politics and International Relations at the University of Cambridge.