Swedish-speaking Finns isolated, but financially stable during coronavirus crisis

This was the first survey carried out into how the coronavirus epidemic has impacted Finland's Swedish-speaking community.

File picture of Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki, showing pedestrians and trams / Credit: iStock

Finland’s Swedish-speaking population found themselves isolated, working from home, financially stable but concerned over the economy during the coronavirus crisis.

A new survey of a thousand people, carried out by the liberal think tank Agenda, finds that 90% of respondents said they had been isolated to some degree during the epidemic.

Sixty-five percent of people said they only met with close family members during this time, while 24% said they had met with a few people also outside their immediate family.

When it comes to economic issues Swedish-speaking Finns said their own finances were okay, but when it comes to friends and neighbours they were a bit more concerned.

“They fear that other people are negatively impacted by the virus, and when it comes to the population in general, and for the country, Swedish-speaking Finns are worried about whether Finland will suffer an economy setback” explains Agenda’sĀ Ted Urho.

“We saw that retirees, elderly people over 65-years of age were less worried about their own financial situation because as long as they’re on a pension they’ll get an income no matter what” Urho tellsĀ News Now Finland.

At the other end of the scale Swedish-speaking Finns who work as entrepreneurs were most concerned about their own financial situation during the crisis.

Adapting to coronavirus life

The Agenda survey, which was carried out at a time when the Uusimaa regional borders had just been re-opened, but when schools, restaurants, bars and cafes were still closed, looked at how life was changing for Swedish-speaking Finns.

When it came to working remotely, 50% of employed people said they started working competely, or almost completely, from home; while 15% said they had increased the amount of remote working they were doing, during the coronavirus crisis.

However 22% of people said they didn’t have a chance to work from home because of the jobs they were in – a trend more prevalent in lower paying jobs, while people who earn more reported more flexibility in their working practices.

“There is a difference too between rural and urban areas, with 59% of people in urban areas started to work from home, while in rural areas this was only 38%” says Ted Urho.

File picture of Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson (SFP) at Helsinki briefing, 3rd April 2020 / Credit: Laura Kotila, VNK

Grading the government’s performance

When it comes to how well Swedish-speaking Finns perceive the government has acted during the coronavirus epidemic, they gave the five-party coalition a school grade of 8.6 (with 4 being a very poor mark, and 10 being excellent).

“One reason for the good grades is partially that the government has done a good job, but also because people feel they are represented by the [Swedish People’s Party], they feel heard and listened too” Urho explains – adding that of course not all Swedish-speaking people vote for SFP, but their inclusion in government is a factor in the solid grade the survey revealed.

Respondents also praised clear communications from the government, and believed they were moving in step with what people wanted: most Swedish-speaking Finns who took part in the survey were positive at the time about continued restrictions on bigger gatherings; approved the border closures; and accepted the need to limit contacts for the elderly.

However there was more anxiety about keeping schools, public services, and restaurants closed for too long.

When asked about whether Finland should have followed the Swedish model in dealing with coronavirus, just 13% of Swedish-speaking Finns thought that would have been a good idea.