Thursday May 06, 2021

Action needed to reinforce people’s trust in govt: OECD survey

Published : 04 May 2021, 22:20

Updated : 05 May 2021, 10:02

  DF Report

Government Palace. Photo: Finnish government by Janne Suhonen.

The final report of a trust survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provided current information on people’s trust in government and public institutions in Finland.

The report published on Tuesday also set out recommendations on how government and governance can be improved to build and maintain public trust, said the Ministry of Finance in a press release.

“Government exists to serve citizens. The legitimacy of a welfare state with extensive public administration is based on people's trust that it will generate wellbeing. The OECD survey is valuable, as it tells us that government and public institutions are trusted, but at the same time it points out where we can make improvements, for instance in services,” said Minister of Local Government Sirpa Paatero.

In Finland there is a high level of public trust, and the country performs well in international comparisons of trust. The OECD report nevertheless showed that, despite the high national average, public trust in different institutions varies.

According to the survey, 66% of citizens trust central government (the ‘civil service’), 61% trust the government in power, 53% trust parliament, and 52% trust local government.

There are significant regional and demographic differences in these figures. Trust in government and public institutions is weaker for rural residents and among people with lower levels of education and income. If the disparities in trust deepen, this may weaken social cohesion and Finland’s ability to cope with the challenges of an ageing population, climate change, digitalisation, and the transformation of work.

Although people’s trust in public institutions and their satisfaction with democracy is high, the proportion who believe they can influence political processes is small (i.e. political efficacy is relatively low) compared to other high-trust countries. The OECD emphasised that potential marginalisation in certain population groups should be tackled by promoting broader social dialogue in Finland.

The OECD analysed the challenges related to trust in Finland and identified opportunities to address them. The report recommendations for action focus, especially on the ability of government to respond to people’s changing expectations and needs, and to future challenges. In addition to well-functioning, high-quality and accessible public services, it is essential to secure a stable economic environment. The OECD’s recommendations for government and public institutions relate to improving the measurement of trust, ensuring services meet people’s expectations and needs, more inclusive forms of policy preparation and decision-making, increased transparency, public integrity, and fairness and non-discrimination.

The OECD recommendations will be examined closely in a cross-government working group. The working group will determine which of the recommendations can be pursued in existing programmes or projects and which require further work or additional studies.

The OECD trust survey was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and carried out by the OECD Directorate for Public Governance.