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According to the World-wide Happiness Index, Finland is #2.

FINLAND has been judged to be the world’s second happiest country in the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, which was released on 2 April. Denmark took top spot.
Finland is the only AAA-rated European country with an economy that is on the rise.


Growth is up by a third and exports are booming while other European countries such as Greece and Spain are struggling to stay afloat
What are a couple of keys to the happiness and success of Finland?

HEALTHCARE

This article gives quite a detailed look at healthcare services and how they are paid for and delivered.

Healthcare in Finland

Here are a couple of snippets:

Preventive healthcare, maternity care and child health is free to everyone. Children below the age of 18 receive all of their medical care free. However, parents may sometimes have to pay a daily fee (up to seven days) for inpatient hospital treatment.

All hospital doctors are specialists and are paid salaries by the government. If a patient requires specialist care or treatment, they must be seen by a specialist doctor within three weeks of being referred by their GP.

Once a ceiling of 590 EUR a year (590 euros = $763)has been reached, patients no longer have to pay. Costs for children count towards their parents medical fee limit. Citizens are responsible for monitoring whether or not they have reached the fee limit.

Prescription medicine is subsidised and you will have to pay some of the costs.

I'm sure there are some kinks in the Finnish health care system; however, the overall satisfaction and good health of the people speaks highly of Finland's national health care program.

World's Healthiest Countries

Ranking:  Finland 22 : USA 33
Health Grade:  Finland 76.69 : USA 66.84
Total Health Score:  Finland 82.12 : USA 72.96
Health Risk Penalty:  Finland 5.43 : USA 6.12

EDUCATION

Education in Finland is tuition free!  Upon close examination, Finland is hugely successful with a highly educated populace.  Sadly, or oddly, the methods used in Finland and other Nordic countries is almost the opposite of how we have been managing education, especially for the last 12 years.

I am sure the lack of STUDENT DEBT stress contributes to the good health of young Finns, too.

World's Healthiest Countries

Ranking:  Finland 22 : USA 33
Health Grade:  Finland 76.69 : USA 66.84
Total Health Score:  Finland 82.12 : USA 72.96
Health Risk Penalty:  Finland 5.43 : USA 6.12
Education in Finland

This is a wikipedia link; however, the source documents for this report are genuine.  A few snippets:

Education in Finland is an egalitarian system, with no tuition fees and with free meals served to full-time students.

Schools up to university level are almost exclusively funded and administered by municipalities of Finland (local government).

....even in private schools, the use of tuition fees is strictly prohibited

Teachers, who are fully unionized, follow state curriculum guidelines but are accorded a great deal of autonomy as to methods of instruction and are even allowed to choose their own textbooks

Reading for pleasure is actively encouraged (Finland publishes more children's books than any other country).

There are no high-stakes tests (accept for Advanced Degree entrance)

Both primary and secondary teachers must have a Master's degree to qualify.  

The respect accorded the profession and the higher salaries than the OECD average lead to higher performing and larger numbers applying for the positions, and this is reflected in the quality of teachers in Finland.

TAXATION:  How does Finland pay for all of this?

Finland  Income Taxes and Tax Laws 2012

In regard to income from a salary, an employer is obligated to deduct the amount of tax demanded each month.

Finland Individual Tax Rates

An individual whose only income is from a salary is not obligated to file an annual tax return.

In 2012 the rate of tax payable on capital gains is 24.5% for companies and 30% for individuals, 32% for income exceeding EUR 50,000.

Church tax of 1%- 2.15% is also payable.

In addition to direct taxation there is also municipal tax in Finland. This tax is payable by an individual on his or her income and it fluctuates between 16.25% - 21.75% depending on the municipal authority.

You can read up about Finland's municipalities here:  Municipalities of Finland

HOMELESSNESS

All is not perfect.  For instance, Finland developed a homeless population when rent control was abandoned in Finland between 1992 and 1995.

In 2008, Finland decided to end homelessness.  I highly recommend reading this article:

Finland has in recent years successfully reduced long-term homelessness.

As an unequivocal conclusion drawn from the Finnish experiences it can be stated that eliminating homelessness is an entirely feasible and realistic objective. It requires persistent, systematic work, which is not possible without an extensive political consensus ranging from the national to the local level. Building an extensive political consensus is not self-evident, it requires strategic initiatives where the active role of relevant state officials and NGOs is crucial. Political legitimacy also prepares the way for the acquisition of financial resources. Moreover, eliminating homelessness is not even a major economic cost if we consider the financial savings that result from the elimination of homelessness.

The greatest obstacle for ending homelessness is the public opinion, the ”silent majority”, whose attitudes towards homeless people are often very prejudiced and stigmatizing. These attitudes surface especially in local resistance towards new housing units for homeless people. The only method for decreasing this resistance seems to be the continuous distribution of information regarding homelessness and an on-going dialogue between the units and their neighbourhood.

Finland is close to ending homelessness.
The first Finnish National Programme to Reduce Long-Term Homelessness succeeded in halving the long-term homelessness by 2011;

The newest government programme “An open, fair and confident Finland” for years 2011-2015 suggests continuation for the Long-Term Homelessness Reduction Programme, aiming to end long-term homelessness in Finland by 2015.

Damn socialism.  

COMPARE FINLAND WITH THE UNITED STATES

Number of prisoners per 100,000 population:  Finland 59 :USA 730

Number of Doctors per 100,000 population:  Finland 29 : USA 24

Number of Students per class room:  Finland <20 : USA 20+

Class size varies immensely in the USA, however.
Florida had a problem with large class sizes.  A law was passed in 2002 to reduce class sizes to 18 for K-3, 22 for grades 4-8, and for grades 9-12 to 25 for core curriculum classes.

Florida's Class Size Reduction Amendment History

Of no surprise, the present Tea Party GOP of Florida overturned much of the 2002 law:

Florida's Class Size Amendment - 2012 Legislative Session

Don't get me wrong here.  I love the United States of America.  It's my country.

However, I think we are doing so many things the wrong way because of knot headed Republicans whose fear of "socialism" overrides their pragmaticism to the point that they refuse to consider the role models of other countries like Finland.

Talking to the choir here, but I do believe that health care, housing, and education for all are best handled in an egalitarian manner because the worth of each person (each soul even) deserves the dignity to be considered the same as others, regardless of wealth, talents, appearance, color, and/or intelligence.  

AT THE VERY LEAST, take care of the basic needs of those who truly can't take care of themselves.

The United States is on a path towards the opposite:

How pronounced is income inequality around the world – and how can education help reduce it?

Before the onset of the crisis, the income of the wealthiest 10% of the population was about nine times that of the poorest 10%, on average among OECD nations.

Even in countries like Denmark, Germany and Sweden, where historically income inequality has been less pronounced, the earnings ratio of the richest compared to the poorest increased from 5 to 1 in the 1980s to more than 6 to 1;

This ratio is 10 to 1 in Italy, Japan, Korea and the United Kingdom,

14 to 1 in Israel, Turkey and the United States, and

Yet in countries with higher income inequality – such as Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States – a child’s future economic standing is often closely related to the income level of his or her parents.

Equity-based education policies can be a key tool for reducing income inequality in the future.

Some countries are already seeing the promise of equity-based policies.

Indeed, the results of the OECD’s PISA assessment show the potential of such an approach.

On the 2009 reading assessment, for instance, Canada, Finland, Japan and Korea were all top performers. They all had large proportions of students performing at the highest proficiency levels, and relatively few students at the lower proficiency levels.

The Bottom Line   
In an era of growing inequality, education policies that focus on equity may be an effective way to increase income mobility between generations and reduce income disparities in the future.
Some will argue that Finland has little diversity.  That has changed and Finland continues to shine, educating Finnish children for free, even for Masters Degrees.

Finland came from behind to become the world leader in student achievement. Their strategy is the opposite of what we’re doing in America.  

The overall variation in achievement among Finnish students is also smaller than that of nearly all the other OECD countries. This is true despite the fact that immigration from nations with lower levels of education has increased sharply in recent years, and there is more linguistic and cultural diversity for schools to contend with. One recent analysis notes that in some urban schools the number of immigrant children or those whose mother tongue is not Finnish approaches 50 percent.

Although most immigrants are still from places like Sweden, the most rapidly growing newcomer groups since 1990 have been from Afghanistan, Bosnia, India, Iran, Iraq, Serbia, Somalia, Turkey, Thailand, and Vietnam.

These new immigrants speak more than 60 languages.

I pray the GOP loses all ground at all levels of governance.

Enough with their paranoid, hatriot outlook.

We need to feed, house, provide preventative health care, and educate our children so the playing field is leveled.

We don't need MORE government.  We need GOOD governance.

Poll

We have strayed far from the original vision of equal opportunity for all.

100%91 votes
0%0 votes

| 91 votes | Vote | Results

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