A practical nurse by training, Tiina is a single parent who has to resort to a short-term loan at the end of each month to put food on the table. She has to tell her teenage child that there is no money for a cinema ticket as every little bit of extra cash has to be put aside for a new winter coat. As soon as she has received her wages and paid all the bills, she has to start stretching the pennies again. The cycle has been repeated for years. Tiina could cope but she feels bad for her child and hopes to provide her child with tools for climbing out of poverty.
Recently, public debate on the economy has been blinkered with speakers looking for new ways of curbing public spending to reduce the budget deficit. People such as Tiina and her child do not feature in the discussion. There is no denying that, in the current economic situation, tightening the purse strings is imperative. Finns understand that we must find new solutions for the sustainability of the public finances. But we should also be able to look at the budget cuts from a perspective other than a purely financial one as these cuts have an impact on our whole society and future.
The recession of the 1990s left its mark on the Finnish society. Even during the period of economic growth, our public deficit and unemployment rate remained at a higher level than before the economic slump. When the new financial crisis reached our shores, it found us older and more overweight, living in smaller households, struggling with more debts and inhabiting a country that had more inequality than in the 1990s.
The widening gap in wellbeing is evident wherever you look. It can be seen in schools, healthcare centres and residential areas. The sense of unfairness not only weighs down the poor but also erodes the sense of community and citizens’ trust in society. This leads to a society with more insecurity and unrest, where even the well-to-do lose their trust in society’s ability to provide a safety network in the event of illness, unemployment or poverty.
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