Democracy and participation
Finland is a rather large but sparsely populated country. There are fewer cities than in many other countries, and there is plenty of countryside.
- Finland is a welfare state. This means that the state looks after such groups as the poor, the sick and the disabled. Basic education is free for children. The services are paid for by collecting taxes and fees from people and companies.
- Finnish people may often be quiet to start off with. But when you get to know a Finnish person, you can find a friend for the rest of your life.
- Finland is a democratic republic. Instead of royalties, there is a president. Finland is a member of the European Union (EU).
- In European terms, Finland is rather a large country. Its surface area is 338,127 km². The population is small, however, or about 5,400,000. Most of the people live in the southern part of the country, while very few live in the north.
- The population of Helsinki, the capital, is some 590,000. In total, some 1 million people live in the large cities of the Helsinki Metropolitan area, or Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa. There are nearly 220,000 people living in Tampere. Tampere is the largest city outside the Helsinki Metropolitan area. There are more than 180,000 people living in Turku. Turku is the oldest city in Finland.
- The neighbouring countries of Finland are Sweden, Norway, Russia and Estonia.
- Finland is a democracy. The head of the state is the President of the Republic. Power in Finland belongs to the people represented by Parliament.
- The President of the Republic and the parliament are elected by the people. The president is in power for six (6) years, the parliament for four (4) years.
- In a parliamentary election, the citizens elect the 200 members of the parliament by voting. The parliament passes laws and makes decisions on state finances. The president exercises governmental power together with the government. The government consists of the prime minister and other ministers. Judicial power is exercised by independent courts. Finland has a regional central government that covers the entire country and six Regional State Administrative Agencies.
- There are 320 municipalities in Finland (in 2013). Each municipality is autonomous. This means that the municipality makes decisions on its own financial matters. It is the duty of the municipality to offer basic services to its residents. Basic services include education, health care and social welfare services. The residents elect their representatives for the local government by voting.
Equality and gender equality
- In Finland, all are equal in the eyes of the law. People must not be treated differently based on their gender, age, origin, language, religion, opinion, state of health or sexual orientation. Children, too, must be treated equally as individuals. Equality means that men and women have the same rights.
- Women are active in politics and work outside the home. In Finland it is normal for men to do household chores. Men clean, cook, and look after children.
- Equality and gender equality also mean that no-one must be discriminated against.
Voting and right to vote
- All Finnish citizens aged 18 and over have the right to vote in an election. Women and men have equal voting rights.
- To be eligible to vote, you must live permanently in Finland. If you are not a Finnish citizen, you are entitled to vote in local government elections and a municipal referendum. If you are not a Finnish citizen, you cannot vote in a presidential or a parliamentary election. An invitation to come and vote will be sent to your home.
A citizen’s rights and duties
- The law gives Finnish citizens certain basic rights. Under law, everyone in Finland is equal in the eyes of the law. Equality also applies to those having immigrated into the country. It means that everybody has the same rights.
- In Finland, legal protection applies to everybody. For example, this means that if an authority has treated you inappropriately, you can appeal. In Finland, everyone is entitled to their own religion. Everyone is also entitled to live where they like.
- Everyone has the freedom of speech, or a freedom to express their opinions. Freedom of speech also means that what is printed in newspapers is not censored. People also have the right to meet without a permission. For a demonstration, a permission from the police must be sought.
- People also have duties under the law. For example, compulsory education applies to children. It means that they have to attend school. A child has to start school in the year in which he or she turns seven (7). Compulsory education comes to an end in the year in which the young person turns 17.
- Everybody has the duty to pay tax on their income. You also have to pay tax on property. One of the duties of Finnish citizens includes conscription. This means that each man over the age of 18 has to do military or non-military service. Conscription does not apply to women in Finland. Women can also join the army if they wish.
- Finnish people have the rights and duties of an EU citizen, such as the right to free mobility in the EU area. They are also free to work in all EU countries.