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What we can learn from the world's happiest country?


Economy & Politics


Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen


Agenda Publishing




Danny Dorling is the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, he graduated in Geography, Statistics and Mathematics from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1989. Annika Koljonen graduated in Politics and International Relations from the University of Cambridge in 2019, and was an intern at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva that year. She is currently living in Helsinki.





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Onnen maa The land of happiness In 2018, 2019 and 2020, the World Happiness Report ranked, the World Happiness Report ranked Finland the world's happiest country, both for its total population and for the immigrants living there. The United States and the UK were placed eighteenth (fifteenth for immigrants) and nineteenth (twentieth for immigrants), respectively. The Nordic Model has long been touted as the aspiration for social and public policy in Europe and North America, but what is it about Finland that makes the country so successful and seemingly such a great place to live? Is it simply the level of government spending on health, education and welfare? Is it that Finland has one of the lowest rates of social inequality and childhood poverty, and highest rates of literacy and education? Finland clearly has problems of its own – for example, a high level of gun ownership and rising rates of suicide – which can make Finns skeptical of their ranking, but its consistently high performance across a range of well-being indicators does raise fascinating questions. In the quest for the best of all possible societies, Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen explore what we might learn from Finnish success and what they might usefully learn from us. 


Part I The Context 

1. Geography and climate 

2. History amid empires 

3. Economy and welfare 

Part II Social Policy 

4. Childhood and education 

5. Mid-life and equality 

6. Old age and health 

Part III The Future 

7. Politics and populism 

8. Demography and environment 

9. Success fatigue 

Appendix: Finland among the best in the world


"Among the world’s countries, Finland ranks at or near the top in air quality, education, equality, happiness, honest government, milk consumption, opportunities for children, preparedness, safety, trust in its police, and many other things. Eighty years ago, most of those things were not true. How did Finland become so successful, so quickly, across such a broad spectrum? How can other countries achieve Finland’s happiness? Read this wonderful book, and learn the answers!" -- Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, UCLA, and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel "As inequality reaches eye-watering levels around the world, this book contains some fascinating and important lessons on how policies like progressive taxation and investing in public services can lead to more eq...



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