Characteristic of Helsinki: large proportions of young adults and single dwellers

At the end of 2016, Helsinki had 635,000 inhabitants. The population has been growing rapidly, by 8,000 annually on average in 2013–2016. This means an annual population increase of 1.3 per cent. The increase is forecast to be almost as strong in coming years. This pace is exceptional in Finland, and over 40 per cent of Finnish population growth occurred in Helsinki.

Population growth in Helsinki is mainly due to three factors: net migration gains from the rest of Finland, net migration gains from abroad, and natural population growth. In return, Helsinki has had a migration loss to the rest of the Helsinki Region, and this deficit started to grow again after reaching a low of –370 in 2013. Fluctuations in migration loss to the rest of the Helsinki Region have been the most variable component in Helsinki’s population increase in recent years. Growing migration loss influences, in particular, the number of children, since out-migration from Helsinki mainly consists of families with children.

The population structure of Helsinki shows a predominance of young adults and younger middle-age inhabitants. The proportion of children and pensioners is significantly lower than in the rest of Finland. Thus, the demographic dependency ratio is more favourable in Helsinki, and it is also predicted to deteriorate slower than in the neighbouring cities and the rest of Finland.

Almost half of dwellings in Helsinki have only one inhabitant. Families with children account for just under onefifth of household-dwelling units. The proportion of single dwellers in the population started to decrease during the current City Council term, and that of families with children started to increase. Over one quarter (28%) of families with children are lone-parent families. Among all Finnish municipalities excluding the Åland Islands, Helsinki has the largest proportion of lone parents: one quarter of under-18-year-olds live in a lone-parent family. Their share, however, has decreased over the last ten years.

Signs of economy picking up, but the trend is ambiguous

The Helsinki Region provides almost one-third of Finland’s gross national product. During the Council term, economy in the region has picked up faster than in all of Finland. In late 2015, investments started to increase in the private sector, and 2016 saw a new upswing through construction and production investments. Yet, neither trade nor manufacturing have recovered to the same extent as, for example, construction and business services.

Economic development is still divided. Exports have lagged, and growth has been based on domestic demand only. Sales have declined somewhat in daily consumer goods trade, but for the rest, private consumption has started growing. The consumption of durable goods, in particular, has grown strongly. At the same time, the indebtedness of households has increased.

In 2016, the upswing started to become apparent in employment as well. Between 2012 and March 2016, the number of unemployed people grew by almost 60 per cent in Helsinki. At its worst, the increase brought to mind the economic depression in Finland in the early 1990s. But gradually in 2016, the increase in the number of unemployed slowed down, and in early 2017, unemployment is likely to have decreased. At the end of 2016, there were around 40,000 unemployed searching for work in Helsinki, the unemployment rate being 11.9 per cent. What is particularly worrying is that long-term unemployment is increasing. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of long-term unemployed tripled, and at the end of 2016, the long-term unemployed amounted to 18,000 in Helsinki. Extended unemployment concerns especially older age groups, but it has become more common also among young people and the recently graduated.

Times still rough for municipal economy

The hardships of the Finnish national economy could also be seen in the economy and financial basis of the City of Helsinki. Compared with the level in 2012, income financing deteriorated in Helsinki and the other major cities of Finland. Revenues were not sufficient to cover investments. Nor was the annual contribution margin. The falling profit of the City of Helsinki partly derives from the fact that profits from public utilities, which have been incorporated, are no longer included in the income financing of the city. On the other hand, the profit of the city’s business group was better than it had been in 2012.

The operating expenditure of the City of Helsinki grew by 6.9 per cent between 2012 and 2015. The majority of operating expenditure went to service procurement. Expenditure for outsourced services grew slightly more than did wages and salaries in the city’s own service production.

Between 2012 and 2015, the tax revenue of the City of Helsinki grew by over 11 per cent. The majority of this revenue was municipal income tax, which increased by 7.5 per cent. At the same time, the amount of debt owed by the city also increased over that period. The per capita debt, however, stopped growing, as the city’s population grew strongly during the period.

Construction picked up again, with growing emphasis on housing

Towards the end of the City Council’s term of office 2013–2016, construction increased in Helsinki. The aggregate floor space in building permits and building starts for new housing, in particular, grew significantly. Construction of business premises increased, too. The aggregate completed floor space stayed at almost the same level as during the previous Council terms. As a whole, however, construction was more geared towards housing than it had been earlier.

Between 2013 and 2016, around 15,500 dwellings were completed in Helsinki, either as new dwellings or extensions, and an additional 1,300 dwellings through change of intended use. The annual number of dwellings completed has varied between around 4,000 and 4,500. Although the number at present is smaller than the goal set for the Council term (5,500), it can be argued that housing construction in Helsinki has recovered from the late 2000s recession. In the years 2013–2015, the housing stock grew annually by 1.4 per cent on average.

Of all new dwellings completed, 61 per cent were non-subsidised owner-occupied or rented dwellings, which was more than the goal set for the Council term (45%). The “in between” tenure statuses, such as the price-level-adjusted owner-occupied and the tenant-owned flats, accounted for 23 per cent and the state-subsidised (ARA) rented flats for 15 per cent of new dwellings completed.

Housing space per person as earlier, but housing became more expensive

At year-end 2015, floor space per person in household-dwelling units in Helsinki was 33.8 square metres on average. In Helsinki, housing space per person has stabilised at the level reached in 2007 and has not grown in recent years – unlike in Finland on average.

In recent years, housing has become considerably more expensive. Rents, in particular, have been rising faster than the Index of Wage and Salary Earning everywhere in Helsinki since the end of 2012. The rent rise has been fastest in the eastern, south-eastern, north-eastern and northern parts of the city, albeit that the rent levels in these parts are below the city average. The price development of owner-occupied dwellings shows more geographic variation between different parts of Helsinki. In Inner Helsinki and the western outer districts, prices of old dwellings in blocks of flats and terraced houses have risen clearly faster than the Index of Wage and Salary Earning. In other parts of Helsinki, prices have risen more moderately. In Helsinki’s northern and eastern parts (price zone 4), in particular, prices of old dwellings have not risen notably during the Council term.

The total number of homeless people is estimated to have decreased, as well as long-term homelessness. In return, the proportion of homeless people with an immigrant background has grown in recent years. The majority of homeless people living alone stayed temporarily with friends and relatives. The rest of the homeless lived outdoors or stayed temporarily in various kinds of hostels or shelters, or in housing service units such as service homes, or in hospitals or other institutions.

Positive trends in health and wellbeing, but social problems and differences between population groups still a worry

Many indicators of health and wellbeing show positive trends in Helsinki. Life expectancy has risen, albeit it is still lower among Helsinki residents than Finns in general. Yet, judging by the morbidity index published by KELA (Social Insurance Institution of Finland), the health of Helsinki residents is better than that of the average Finn. Endemic diseases, too, are less common than the national average. Of endemic diseases, only psychoses are as common in Helsinki as in Finland as a whole. In addition, many lifestyle-related factors, such as food habits, weight control, smoking and exercise are at a better level in Helsinki. A majority of Helsinki residents feel their health is good, and over half think their quality of life is good on average.

Higher mortality rates among Helsinki residents than Finns at large are only visible in certain population groups. Among higher-educated people and upper-level employees, there is mostly no difference in mortality rate between Helsinki and the rest of Finland. Among lower-educated people and manual workers, however, mortality is clearly higher in Helsinki than in the rest of Finland. Similar observations can be made also in terms of other factors related to wellbeing. Those with higher education are likely to find their quality of life and their health better than those with lower education. Between age groups, differences can be seen in the perceptions of health and quality of life. Differences between genders can be seen in terms of life expectancy and alcohol consumption.

While the residents of Helsinki have generally healthy lifestyles, excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking form an exception. Excessive alcohol consumption is considerably more common in Helsinki than in Finland in general. This applies to both men and women, and it is most visible among lower-educated people. A positive trend is that excessive alcohol consumption seems to be decreasing among men. Differences are still considerable, however, and it should be noted that alcohol-related diseases and alcohol poisoning explain more than one quarter of the difference in life expectancy between Helsinki and the rest of Finland for the over-25-year-olds.

Differences in health and wellbeing not only occur between population groups but also between neighbourhoods. Socioeconomic segregation in Helsinki is more multi-layered than earlier, and for example, high unemployment rates and low income and education levels are often observed in the same areas. In many cases these areas have a relatively large proportion of inhabitants with a foreign mother tongue. Local differences in welfare indicators are linked to differences in socioeconomic structure: areas with a small proportion of highly educated people and a large proportion of unemployed and low-earning residents often rank lower than other areas on various health and wellbeing indicators. Although local differences in Helsinki are relatively large and changes happen slowly, there has also been some narrowing of differences for certain indicators. Area-level differences in morbidity, for instance, have become slightly smaller in recent years. Also the proportion of young people who have gone directly from compulsory school to a secondary level education seems to show less variation between districts and schools compared to previous years.

Helsinki residents on average felt that the city centre and their own neighbourhood were as safe as earlier. A key indicator of perceived everyday safety is how safe people feel in their own neighbourhood on weekend evenings. According to recent data, these perceptions have remained on the same level as in 2012. The public transport, too, was felt to be safe. In this respect, however, the situation of immigrants is not as good as that of the native population. Furthermore, fear among female residents of falling victim of sexual crime has increased after a long period of positive development. This applied especially to younger women.

Helsinki still in the lead in tertiary education, women more educated than men

The proportion of residents with a tertiary level (polytechnic or university) degree is still significantly greater in Helsinki than in Finland at large. Secondary level degrees, by contrast, are less common than in the rest of Finland. Moreover, the proportion of people with higher than basic-level education is also smaller in Helsinki compared to the Finnish average. This is partly explained by Helsinki’s large immigrant population, many of whom hold degrees not registered in the Finnish system. Meanwhile, the proportion of Finnish or Swedish speaking residents of Helsinki with post-compulsory degrees is slightly higher than the national average. The educational structure of Helsinki thus shows a larger-than-average proportion of people with a tertiary education and a larger-than-average proportion of people with no post-compulsory education at all.

In Helsinki, women are higher educated than men. Among 25–64-year-olds, 84 per cent of women and 77 per cent of men had completed a post-compulsory education. Over half, 55 per cent of women, and 42 per cent of men had a tertiary degree. Among men, the level of education had not risen as fast as among women.

Weak income trend, growing social assistance benefit dependence

In Helsinki, the proportion of residents who have a good income is larger than in the rest of Finland. Reflecting the general economic situation, the overall development of incomes has been weak. For example, residents’ disposable income in Helsinki started declining around 2010 and did not recover until 2015. Differences in income between population groups are very clear. Women’s income still comes out at only three quarters of men’s income. The average income also varies by age group.

With increasing unemployment and especially long-term unemployment, an increasing number of households in Helsinki have had to rely on the general housing allowance and the social assistance benefit. For some years now, the number and proportion of Helsinki residents receiving the social assistance benefit have been growing steadily. In 2015, almost 76,000 people in Helsinki received the benefit, equalling 12.1 per cent of the population. To more and more people, the benefit has increasingly become a permanent source of income, the primary cause being prolonged unemployment.

More children live in families receiving the social assistance benefit

Almost 13 per cent (12,600) of under-18-year-olds in Helsinki lived in a low-income family. This proportion is slightly larger than the average in Finland. Since 2011, the proportion of children living in low-income families has decreased faster in Helsinki than in the whole country, and also slightly faster than the proportion of low-income earners in the entire population of Helsinki.

Having a low income is common in lone-parent families, especially if the children are under school age. Among lone-parent families no less than 28 per cent had a low income. Low incomes are also more common among families with a foreign background, particularly in first-generation immigrant families.

Low incomes often lead to the need of social assistance benefit. The last few years have seen steady growth in the number of children living in recipient families. Also their proportion of the peer age group has increased. To a growing number of people, the social assistance benefit is an increasingly permanent source of income. There are great differences between districts in the proportion of children living in recipient families. In the Southern Major District, five per cent of children were covered by the benefit, compared to 27 per cent in the Eastern Major District. Similar differences could be found in the proportions of children living in families with a prolonged need for assistance.

Although a great majority of families with children are doing well, many have to rely on the support of society. Thus the proportion of pupils receiving special support at school is larger in Helsinki than in Finland as a whole. Similarly, the number of visits to psychiatric special health care for children and adolescents compared with the total number of under-18-year-olds is larger in Helsinki than in all of Finland or in the neighbouring cities of Vantaa and Espoo. The period 2012–2015 saw growth in the number of non-hospital care visits. Between 2008 and 2014, the number of child protection clients grew by almost 40 per cent amounting to an annual increase of several hundred children.

The need for child protection is influenced by a number of factors. The most common reasons for emergency placements or custody orders included mental health problems suffered by the child, problems with upbringing, the parents’ alcohol use and the parents’ mental health problems. One tenth of emergency placements were due to violence against the child. The most frequent causes for child placements as a non-institutional support measure were problems with upbringing, parents’ mental health problems or problems in the child’s growth environment. According to staff at the City of Helsinki Department of Social Services and Health Care, adults in child protection client families would need more support with adulthood and coping skills than can be provided by the child protection service.

In families with children in Helsinki, every third parent reports at least some degree of perceived inadequacy as a parent. Lone parents experience such feelings more often than parents in couples. The parents’ stress tolerance is also linked to perceived depression.

Most young people in Helsinki do well – routes to independence hindered by challenges of employment, income and housing

The majority of young people in Helsinki do well. Nine in ten feel they have control of their everyday life, and for the most part, young people know whom to turn to in an emergency. When thinking about their future, they feel they have good chances of increasing their skills in matters of interest to themselves and to focus on work or study directions that they consider interesting. However, ten per cent of young people struggle to cope with their lives. Their backgrounds include learning and concentration difficulties, mental health problems and various difficult situations in life. Also, many young people may have difficulties in finding their own work or study direction and they may lack motivation. Shortage of low-threshold services, particularly in mental health services, often becomes a problem. According to people who work with young people struggling with various kinds of problems, a worrying group are those who live in supported housing for post-placement youth, considering that their family networks are often weak. Their parents are incapable of supporting them in their transition to independence.

Some young people are still excluded from both work and education. In Helsinki, almost 9,000 young people who have completed basic education are neither at work nor on the school bench. On the whole, the proportion of youth outside work and education has remained at the same level during the last few years. However, a certain positive trend can be observed for those under 20. More and more young Helsinki residents find a place to study at secondary level, and this positive trend applies especially to young people with an immigrant background.

Although various support measures have enabled many young people to find a place to study or work, the position of young people on the labour market is challenging in many ways. Many face increasingly long periods of unemployment, and long-term unemployment, which was previously less common among young people, has become more widespread. At the same time, the number of 15–29-year-olds who receive social assistance benefit has grown. Studies show that, in many cases, dependence on social assistance benefit is passed on from generation to generation.

The lack of money has a variety of effects on young people’s lives. It can prevent them from taking up a hobby (and force them to give it up), or not seeing their friends because it costs too much. Furthermore, one in ten young people had left their bills unpaid or used consumer credit. Young people’s transition to independence in Helsinki is affected by challenges of employment and income and – particularly – high housing costs. In recent years, this has led to an increase in shared housing and a growing proportion of young people staying in their parents’ homes. The same phenomenon can also be seen in the other cities in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Meanwhile, young people elsewhere in Finland move to a home of their own at an increasingly younger age.

Senior citizens are healthier and more active, but perceived bad health increases with age

Elderly people in Helsinki are becoming increasingly active and healthy. The large majority stay in their homes, and most feel they can manage without too much trouble. The greatest change in the proportion of elderly living at home has occurred among those over 85 years of age. As people stay in their homes longer, there is an increasing need for accessible features in housing.

There is no great difference in average taxable income between the elderly, that is, the over-65- year-olds, and people of working age. Yet 38 per cent of the over-65-year-olds earn less than 20,000 euros a year, and this is also the most common income bracket at that age. The higher the age group, the lower the income. Livelihood problems are most common among the oldest women. Perceived poor health and loneliness also become more common with age.

Life expectancy among the elderly has grown significantly, whereas mortality from alcohol-related diseases, accidents, dementia and – with women – lung cancer, has risen among the elderly as well.

Share of people with foreign background on the rise; monitoring their progress in society increasingly important

Helsinki has over 90,000 residents with a foreign background – 15 per cent of the city’s population. Both their number and proportion of the population are growing. Around 74,300 have been born abroad and around 15,600 in Finland. Those born in Finland but with parents born elsewhere are second generation immigrants – or first generation Finns. For the most part, immigrants are of working age. Of those born in Finland, almost 90 per cent are still less than 20 years old.

The majority of immigrants in Helsinki are in their best working age. Yet their unemployment rate is considerably higher and their employment rate clearly lower than in the native population. At the same time, there are great differences between countries of origin, and they are due to dissimilarities of education, language skills and earlier work experience. Among the large immigrant groups, those coming from Estonia, for example – who are often work-based immigrants – have a labour market position very similar to that of the native population. Difficulties to find a job are most common among those coming from countries from which many asylum seekers and refugees have come to Finland, such as Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Immigrants’ position on the labour market follows the general economic trends, and changes for the better or worse are more abrupt than for the native population. Many of those with a foreign background have fixed-term work contracts, often in sectors vulnerable to economic ups and downs. The employment situation also has an effect on a person’s income level, which is often lower among immigrants than the native population in Helsinki. Employment and livelihood also influence immigrants’ position on the housing market. Around 40 per cent of immigrants are social housing tenants.

The employment and income situation of immigrants improves the longer they stay in Finland. Those who have lived longer in Finland find a job more easily, and this positive development also translates into rising incomes and increasing owner-occupied housing. Foreign-background residents born in Finland form a rapidly growing part of Helsinki’s population. A close monitoring of their progress in society is of great importance.

Helsinki has a diversified economy – city highly valued as a business location

Helsinki’s industrial structure is service-dominated, and yet very diversified. No single industry overshadows the others, which gives Helsinki better opportunities to overcome problems pertaining to single industries. Strong industries in Helsinki are still trade, information and communication, administrative and support service activities, and professional, scientific and technical activities. Well over half of all jobs in Helsinki are in these industries. On the whole, the number of jobs in Helsinki remained almost unchanged during the Council term, but compared with the situation in 2008, jobs have decreased.

Among industries, trade especially is undergoing a period of change caused by digitalisation and globalisation, among other things. Many smaller local shopping centres are struggling as consumers head for the large shopping malls. Competition with foreign actors has toughened, too. In 2010–2015, the share of online sales in retail trade in Finland grew by 34 per cent, and this also influences the development of enterprises engaged in trade as well as their staff numbers and turnovers. However, this trend is compensated by population growth and a more positive economic prospects; thus trade is likely to experience growth in future.

The proportions of small, medium-sized or large enterprises have remained unchanged in Helsinki. Almost all (98%) companies in Helsinki fall in the category of small enterprises, with less than 50 people on the payroll. Of total company staff in Helsinki, however, around 40 per cent work in large companies, whose importance for economy and employment is considerable.

Business activities in Helsinki are concentrated in the city centre and the surrounding zone, as well as the Pitäjänmäki–Pohjois-Haaga area. Studies have shown that clustering into certain areas improves the conditions for knowledge-intensive businesses. Besides the clusters within Helsinki, the employment structure is diversified in other parts of the metropolitan area, too. Trade is a predominant industry in Espoo and Vantaa, with Vantaa having an important cluster of logistics companies. Helsinki and Espoo have the largest numbers of jobs in ICT and in professional, scientific and technical activities. With all its numerous jobs in financing and public administration, Helsinki stands out in all of Finland.

According to a survey published in autumn 2016, companies value the location of Helsinki. The main factors influencing their location decisions include proximity to where staff, owners and executives live, the provision of adequate labour in the commuting area and the proximity to present and potential customers. Helsinki’s accessibility, too, played a certain role, and respondents were very glad there were enough alternative locations in Helsinki – albeit some respondents found Helsinki’s price level high and the provision of business properties a challenge. Respondents were pleased with the public transport, but at the same time they also called for more investments in other traffic connections in the city and improved parking. Mostly, they felt that the city’s attitude towards entrepreneurship and business enterprise was positive.

Numbers of visitors to Helsinki on the rise

After a trough in 2012 and 2013, the tourism industry in Helsinki has started to grow again. Just over half of overnight stays in Helsinki are made by foreign visitors. Russian overnight stays have fallen by half during the last few years, but at the same time the total number of stays by Chinese or Japanese tourists almost doubled in five years. The significance of Asian tourism is shown by the fact that the revenue generated by Chinese tourists was, for the first time, higher than that brought by Russians, although there were fewer Chinese than Russians coming to Helsinki.

Although the numbers of visitors are currently growing, Helsinki is still a step behind its competitors such as Stockholm or Copenhagen. Helsinki still partly seems to live in a world of traditional attraction factors which are often derived from mental images attached to Finland such as “cold” or “snow”. At the same time, young people, in particular, value a good atmosphere and an unusual or exotic destination over such stereotypical images. In this respect, Helsinki has made huge strides forward in recent years. Among other things, the saunas Löyly and Allas recently opened in the waterfront locations in central Helsinki have attracted positive international attention.

Many indicators show environmental progress in Helsinki

Emissions of greenhouse gases and energy consumption per capita have both decreased during the Council term. Yet, in both respects there is work to be done to reach the goals set for 2020. Emissions in Helsinki have been reduced through cuts to national emissions from energy production, as well as reduced emissions from the city-owned Helen Ltd’s own energy production and by upgraded energy efficiency in the urban area. Important reasons for reduced energy consumption include improved energy efficiency in buildings and electric appliances such as street lights, as well as improved energy efficiency of motor vehicles.

Air quality has improved somewhat during the Council term in terms of hydrogen dioxide contents, but nonetheless, the EU’s Air Quality Directive’s annual limit value for hydrogen dioxide emissions in the air is still occasionally exceeded due to exhaust gas in the busy street canyons in central Helsinki. The situation has improved markedly especially as regards small particles (PM10) in the air, thanks to efficient measures against street dust after winter sanding. Since 2012, the EU limit value has not been exceeded a single time at the measuring stations, but in busy areas, the risk still exists.

A good international level has been reached in nitrogen and phosphorus loads on the sea water outside Helsinki after 2004, when denitrification processes at the central waste water treatment plant in Viikki were upgraded. Nonetheless, the amount of nitrogen conducted into the sea from the plant has increased slightly during the Council term.

The amount of disposed waste in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area was significantly reduced when the Waste-to-Energy power station in Vantaa started operation. Meanwhile, however, surveys conducted by the Helsinki Region Environmental Service Authority HSY suggest rubbish sorting in households has slackened somewhat.

Helsinki residents now more satisfied with public services

The satisfaction of residents with the public services and housing in their cities has been measured nine times between 1983 and 2016 by a national survey using basically identical questionnaires. The survey is conducted once per municipal council term.  In May 2016 it was answered by 1,081 people in Helsinki. The respondents were generally more satisfied now than in 2012. The results for Helsinki in 2016 were the best ever in the history of the survey. People in Helsinki were most pleased with the quality of drinking water, public transport, waste management and recycling, public order, libraries and arts and culture services. Dissatisfaction mostly concerned the provision of rented housing, dental services and home care for the elderly.

Considerable differences in voting rates between population groups and districts

Helsinki residents are more active voters than Finns at large. Of those entitled to vote in Helsinki, 75.1 per cent voted at the parliamentary elections in 2015. Between 1983 and 2015, voting rates fell by only a few percentage points in Helsinki, comparing with almost 11 percentage points in the country as a whole. However, there are clear differences in voting rates between population groups. Young people and those living in socioeconomically challenged neighbourhoods, lower-educated people and immigrants were less likely to vote than other population groups. At the parliamentary elections in 2015, the difference in turnout between the most active and the most passive district was 26 percentage points, while at the municipal elections in 2012 it was no less than 40 percentage points.

Young people do not take a particularly keen interest in the activities of political parties. This does not mean they are passive, but it rather shows that participation has moved to other platforms. Young people aim to exercise influence by buying ecologically friendly products, taking common action for or against various causes, and in social media and web communities. The City of Helsinki has promoted democratic participation by setting up the participation system Ruuti. The Ruuti activities are coordinated by an annually elected core group of twenty young people whose task is to function as a link between young people and the decision-makers.

Helsinki residents mostly prefer low-threshold culture, and resident-driven urban activism has increased

In terms of arts and culture consumption, Helsinki residents prefer low-threshold amenities such as libraries, cinema, theatre and popular music concerts. Also, various kinds of urban events have been very popular. Thus in the last few years, a multitude of resident-driven events have been organised in Helsinki, some of which have also aimed to influence the activities and planning of the city departments. Individuals and groups have become motors of development. Various issues closely related to Helsinki have been debated on Facebook in groups such as Lisää kaupunkia Helsinkiin and Helsinkiläisten Helsinki. Good examples of bottom-up developments include the immensely popular Restaurant Day, the Flow festival and the Slush event, all of which have reached great popularity and renown even outside Finland.

Trends in the urban culture of Helsinki also become apparent in the local food culture. In the 2000s, food and restaurant culture has taken huge strides forward. Characteristic of this development in recent years is, for example, that the number of new businesses in the restaurant sector has been growing and that the number of companies opening in the sector has constantly been higher than that of companies closing. Some very welcome local changes can be seen in the restaurant sector, too: in Inner Helsinki, at present vibrantly expanding, new shops, cafés and restaurants are opening at street level, and recent signals suggest such activities are also increasing outside Inner Helsinki.

It is important for the city administration to identify and understand the field of urban activisms and to acknowledge that a process of functional and structural change is going on in the civic society. This provides the opportunity to use the energy and skills of residents as a resource. One way in which the City of Helsinki has encouraged active participation in the city’s planning and development has been the opening of city data to the public. In 2013–2016, the use of data available on the open data portal Helsinki Region Infoshare increased remarkably. The use of open data has also been promoted in the Helsinki Loves Developers meetings, which regularly bring together the producers and users of open data and have attracted growing audiences.

Positive trends in leadership, differences between working communities

Kunta 10, a follow-up study on working life and wellbeing through work, conducted every second year, shows a weak positive trend for Helsinki. The overall ranking of the City of Helsinki rose somewhat between 2014 and 2016, and there was progress primarily in the indicators describing work communities and leadership. In return, Helsinki’s total ranking fell somewhat in terms of indicators measuring the content of work and continued work for older employees.

The results show that although the amount of work and stress at work is perceived to have increased, people have not increasingly felt that work is a burden. Also, perceived support from superiors has increased slightly. Staff feel that leadership is inclusive to some extent, although a slight decline has occurred in this respect in last two years. Another aspect that could be improved – according to these findings – is the fairness of decision-making. Dispersion is large in all answers relating to leadership, covering the whole scale, and there are notable differences between and within sectors, offices and departments.

During the Council term, an extensive leadership reform was launched in Helsinki’s city administration, also including a comprehensive organisation reform. The attitude of staff towards the reform is followed using the Muutospulssi follow-up survey, and although no general conclusions can be drawn from the responses of the first round, they show that staff mainly seem to be positive towards the reform. Only a small proportion of respondents felt negatively about it. However, a considerable proportion of staff could not form a clear opinion, and neutral responses were common. A correlation could be seen between active communication by superiors and a positive attitude towards the reform among staff.

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