Cutbacks force Statistics Finland to scale back on research
Finland might soon become the only country in the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union to fail to put out study on national wealth.
Cutbacks in state spending resulting from the recession are forcing Statistics Finland to cut back on various types of research, even though accurate data would be of crucial importance in a time of recession. Also in jeopardy is consumer research.
The state is cutting nearly EUR 3 million from the funding of Statistics Finland this year and next. This amounts to a reduction of more than ten per cent in person work years.
The cutbacks are leading to a considerable deterioration in the quality of statistical analysis, and in the institution’s level of service.
In its 140-year history, Statistics Finland has produced data for use in public decision making, and for adding to the general level of understanding. Demand for information and statistical data has grown sharply. The output of information from Statistics Finland has grown 40 per cent from the beginning of the decade.
The EU has also brought on more work, and has helped finance it. Now that source of money has dried up.
Special researcher Hannele Sauli, who produces data on income and business questions, is upset and worried.
She says that it is impossible not to see the cutbacks as an reflection of how important their work is perceived.
“Even now, there is not always enough information. Statistics are a way to understand things. Decisions cannot be made exclusively on the basis of political sense.”
Statistics on income distribution have been examined closely. Now the size of the sample taken for the statistics is to be reduced in order to reduce costs. The savings will come at the expense of competent interviewers around the country, who will earn less money.
The quality of the statistical information will decline, because smaller samples will mean less accurate results. Data on the development of the living conditions of smaller groups, such as single parents, will be less reliable.
Drawing up statistics is very sensitive work, and continuity is important. “We are constantly asking ourselves, if the change that has been noticed is real, or if the change has simply involved collecting information in its many nuances”, Sauli explains.
Hannele Sauli’s work comprises the planning, organising, and publication of extensive studies, and reacting to various questions and tasks. The data can be required by an international organisation, a government official, or an individual researcher.
Sauli is upset that she now has to compromise on the traditionally high quality of Finnish statistical research, and make do with only the minimum levels required by the EU.
Statistics Finland has been striving for greater efficiency for years, and now it has to deal with further cutbacks.
“We see statistical information as a basic infrastructure of society. One might imagine that in the present uncertain conditions, there would be an even greater need for information how the economy, citizenry, regions, and population groups are doing”, says Heli Jeskanen-Sundström, Director-General of Statistics Finland.