GUEST BLOG: Bryan Bruce – Why is Finland the happiest country on earth 7 years in a row?


Why is Finland the happiest country on earth 7 years in a row?

The population of Finland is close to our own so why are they reported as being much happier with life than we are?
According to the latest annual report conducted in partnership with the United Nations, Gallup World Polls and the Oxford Well-being Research Centre New Zealand is no longer in the top 10 of happiest places.

So why are the Finns generally far happier than us?

Answer – lots of reasons but mainly because they have a much fairer society with far less of a gap between the highest paid and the lowest paid. Yes they pay more taxes than us but in return get higher social support ( there is for example a wide variety of social housing ) and a health service with waiting times that are the envy of the world.

Finland has a more equitable school system where you are likely to get a good education whichever local school you attend and where every child gets a free medical care and a sit down lunch every day at the school restaurant. (I’ve been there and seen it! It’s wonderful!)

In contrast the tax reduction, school punishing ,less government in our lives policies of ACT, National and NZ First are the complete opposite to those that drive the Finnish economy.

Mmmmm…..Do you think there might be a bit of clue here that the road to national happiness lies in creating an inclusive WE society not an exclusive ME centred society that panders to the wealthy few at the expense of the many ?


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Bryan Bruce is one of New Zealand’s most important and respected documentary makers. 


  1. A resounding ‘YES’ answer to your last question.
    But we’re far from that idyllic state and getting worse by the day, for the reasons – and others – you point out, sadly.
    ‘There’s none so blind as those who will not see’.

  2. The trouble is that NACT/NZF, as you point out, all favour less government intervention in the economy, less tax, less public services, more inequality (because this serves their interests), getting “hard” on crime, fighting diversity of any kind, individual responsibility uber ales, and the idea that one’s value is measured by their relative economic impact in the community. In fact, many will deny the idea of the existence of a community or society … Margaret Thatcher famously said there was no such thing as society … just of group of individuals seeking to serve their own best interests (neoliberalism to the fore). Any form of collectivism is frowned on and the commodification of everything is encouraged … hence the advent of ‘competition’ in education and health – and even welfare.
    We know that more equal societies result in increased happiness and less impact of negative social issues across the society in question (e.g. and ). While there have been critics (e.g. and ), many of these have been refuted as simply spokespeople for the status quo and “captured” (to use a term oft used by the supporters of neoliberalism) by neoliberalism within both public and private sectors of the community. These criticisms have been refuted by the authors given that they are based on usually superficial understanding of the research that supports the conclusions of this seminal work. Here lies the problem for much of the support for neoliberalism … at a superficial level it the principles of neoliberalism appear irrefutable but when one digs a little deeper this is often demonstrably inaccurate. But demonstrating this falseness requires understanding of complex and technical issues (which often require advanced training in research methodology, statistics and mathematics).
    Probably bleated enough for this forum, but the underlying ‘moral of this story” is that, “Not all is what it seems at face value”. This is definitely the legacy of neoliberalism.

    • ” Probably bleated enough for this forum, ”
      Stop right there Mr. The words ‘bleat like ‘rant’ are used by the terminally dull to quiet the savage, revolutionary breast. Fuck that! Rage, rage, rage against the dying of the light! (…political.) so please, bleat on and show no fear! I’m an unapologetic ranter myself and I like that about me.
      AO/NZ’s most frustrating undoing is in trusting our abusers. ‘Neoliberalism’ is a word used to describe self legitimising political criminals in the most polite so as to be quite so alarming way. Head down, arse up and shovel the money of others into places the victims of those deconsecrated crimes can never stray, like tropical tax havens and shell companies, while their all bought and paid for politicians, also well paid by us, refuse to help us and indeed block and hinder us in any way they can. The Lobbyist Syndrome. I just invented that and you can use it. That’s why national, labour, act, nz first and until recently the green party and likely the Maori party too are all the same fuckin’ day man.
      Here’s my sincere hope. Chipkins fucks off then Chloe Swarbrick leaps from the sinking, listing vegetable aka the Green party and steps into Chipkin’s slippers to head up the Labour Party.
      roger douglas crawled up the anchor chain of Labour and sunk Her at Her moorings so wouldn’t it be fantastic if the brilliant and angelic spectre of Swarbrick descended from the heavens to re float Her. Imagine that?
      I met Chloe Swarbrick in the company of my partner quite a while ago now and in our opinion she has an impeccable energy and radiates sincerity and strength too.
      A bit like judith collins. Bababababba abab ahhhahaha hhhhahaahahah ahah aha hahahahaha a! Wait-wait! ? Can’t breathe! Bahahahhahahahah bababaha haha babababbababaahahaha Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa haaaa haaa haaaa Oh fuck! Ba hahahahahahahahhahahahahaahahhaahha…………..bahahahaha haaha ahahahahahahaha ahaha hahahahha !

    • Margaret Thatcher ‘ Margaret Thatcher ‘famously said there was no such thing as society … just of group of individuals seeking to serve their own best interests ‘. What drivel, she was full of it. But she had a science degree; a real intellectual knows a degree is just the start of study at a new, higher or more concentrated level. 10 Downing St couldn’t have gone up in such a sturdy long-lasting way built by individuals who decided each day whether to work there or elsewhere based on the most personal advantage. But spoiled children, and those getting approbation from doing all that home and school require, are not far-reaching in their study of man and including themselves. Easiest done at home on a seat in front of the mirror!

  3. Life in FINLAND HELSINKI Travel Documentary – What is FINLAND 2023 Really Like? Countries Explained

    11 months ago
    I met a finish boy in Hamburg in 1971 we became buddy hitch hiking together he bought me a ferry ticket to travel to Helsinki I had a wonderful time and I loved Finland nearly every family had a summer cottage on the lakes whilst you are there it was sauna and jumping into the lakes and eating and drinking no telly no radio away from all the problems of the world just enjoying beautiful people and beautiful country

  4. What’s Finlands primary industry? I can guarantee it isn’t agriculture.
    Ours is. And because there’s only about 50 K farmers here who must provide the rest of us with the money we need to function at a first world economy level there has to be some very, very, very dodgy shit going on which, of course, will ultimately lead to societal decay.
    Make a documentary about that @ BB. I’d be happy to help.

    • Decades ago a tutor at polytech when I did a basic economics curse (sic), advanced the fact that no agriculturally dependent country could reach and maintain first world status. Just pointing out NZs reality. I was such an economic virgin I had never heard such a thing before and was profoundly shocked. He was I think, from Singapore or Hong Kong, and knew what he preached. There was no heaven to come so get used to it was the end result in my brain. That was a pivotal piece of knowledge followed as I grew older and wiser by others, most of them concerning, a few delightful.

  5. What is Finlands’ immigration policy are they anti brown and black peoples who make up the majority of the dispossessed in the world.
    What happens to a country when too many people are poor, and a few are so rich? We know what has happened in the pasts the poor revolted.
    Now if the councils continue to put our rates up as this is unsustainable perhaps, we could have a rate revolt and refuse to pay our rates.

    • You’re not far from the mark. Very little immigration. Little exploitation of minorities, although historically treatment of the indigenous Sami hasn’t been flash.

        • I don’t understand the connection between guns and being free and happy. Guns in general are either relating to injury or death or that possibility. They might be involved in killing animals for food mainly, but if on people they indicate fear. Humans always need to have a little uncertainty about others, being an excitable, unpredictable species that uses drugs regularly; animals have been known to binge occasionally on fermenting ripe plums etc and then become a bit mad ie elephants.

  6. Finland also has compulsory military (or option civil service) for ALL males.

    “About 80% of Finnish male citizens complete the service. Thus, Finland has one of the highest rates of conscription, along with such countries as Singapore, Israel, Armenia, South Korea, Turkey, Estonia, and North Korea. ”

    “Those who fail to report to the drafting event are fetched to the event by the police. If they are not found, they are given an order to report to the military regional office and, if necessary, brought there for an examination and drafting by the police. In addition, they will be prosecuted and sentenced to a fine. Those residing abroad can report to the nearest Finnish embassy for medical examination and drafting.”

    Maybe compulsory conscription into military or civilian duty ends up with a more caring and stable society?

  7. Finland has a much harsher environment and coping with that forces people to act more sensibly to survive.
    So as to be able to afford the clothing and housing needed to live, Finn’s have to take school seriously, they need to become educated just to stay alive.
    Perhaps more responsibility is expected of young people.

    One of the first things young children learn and it has to be learned properly, is how to dress to be safe from the cold in the winter. Their lives may depend on them knowing what to wear, at a young age.
    Possibly Finland, because of the climate, doesn’t appear so attractive to people from all over the world as an emigration destination so they haven’t suffered the disruptive influence of coping with lots of immigrants.

    They realized a long time ago that they’d survive better by acting collectively, protecting each other and being a highly educated population. The Scandinavian countries pay a lot more tax than we do but they are much better looked after by the state than us, because of all that tax money.
    They earn more so they can pay more.

    Basically, too many NZders are careless and thoughtless, dare I say stupid. You can live in a car and not freeze here, sort of. We don’t HAVE to make as much effort to stay alive. The very wealthy look at people sleeping in cars and think it must be because of their bad choices. They feel less inclined to be generous and don’t like to think that their taxes (not very high) go to towards helping the hopeless.

    You are right CB, they aren’t dependent on primary products. They have excellent manufacturing industries which, presumably, produce things the whole world wants, and which don’t pollute the environment to the point where it is irredeemable.

    Are we going to stick our necks out and call it socialism? We know what NZders think of socialism. it’s a dirty word in some quarters.
    One can’t expect a well-functioning society where people don’t mind paying plenty of tax for the collective good, without it being some form of socialism.
    The well-heeled right wing here, see no need to help the helpless, not their problem.
    They have been infected with the ‘every man for himself’ disease and they intend to make sure they can get on with it without being made to feel guilty. Even so-called Christians, have the disease.

  8. I’ve been saying for years that we know what constitutes a good education system, and there are examples around, including Finland. But we don’t seem to be able to copy them do we? Largely I suspect because neoliberals tend to regard education as a private good rather than a public good – and let’s face it labour has been pretty much neoliberal economic lessons 1984.

  9. How Finland Found A Solution To Homelessness

    8 months ago
    Housing first is safety first. The stress of living moment to moment in survival mode is unbelievable. In addition to the practical obstacles that come with not having a fixed address.

    10 months ago
    I was homeless for 15 years. Only when an old friend gave me a camper and a spot to keep it on – then I was able to get everything else in order.
    Btw, thanks Paul.

    10 months ago (edited)
    I was homeless for years. I couldn’t stop doing drugs. I didn’t want to live. I got an apartment through government housing and I immediately stopped doing drugs. I smoke pot but it’s legal here in Arizona. My life has improved incredibly. I have started making YouTube videos, singing and playing the guitar again, and I get to decorate it however I want. It’s my sanctuary. For years I went in and out of rehabs, mental hospitals, halfway houses, and sleeping on the ground. And the other thing is the government is spending WAY less money on me because I’m not constantly in detox and rehab on their dime. Great video topic! Finland looks amazing.

    10 months ago
    Im Finnish and the first time I saw people sleeping on the streets I was at 17 years old in England. I was shocked. I also must say that its ridiculously cold during the long winter that people in the streets would die of.
    Now living abroad Im proud of our social system that still wants to support and help people and we can trust the police. Society is only ws good as it treats its weakest. But I also recognise that we have only 5,5 mil ppl living so it could be easier to manage like in other nordic countries too. And also peoples mindset of not chasing profits all the time plays a big part .

    • Society is only as good as it treats its weakest. And that is why NZ is the way it is under right wing governments.

      • ” Society is only as good as it treats its weakest. And that is why NZ is the way it is under right wing governments. ”

        And LINO majority ones.

  10. Or Maori people already sacrificed many lives for king and country only to return and be treated as second class citizens. We should not be comparing ourselves to Finland totally different country with a different culture and make up of peoples.

  11. I wondered about alcohol consumption. This interactive chart for the world is interesting showing trends. One shows alcohol as part of household expenditure and for about 2017 Finland comes out quite high at 4.1% with Sweden 1.9% and Australia 2.3% New Zealand was 1.7%. Finland was in 1990 up to 7.1% so improved on that. And remember it gets very cold up there and spirits would heat the body quickly.

    Finland didn’t rate highly in 2016 for ‘binge’ drinking sessions, as in month before study at 39%; Russia had 60.6% and poor old Papua New Guinea 60.7%, New Zealand 43%. Mid Africa was quite heavy – from 77% to 81%.

  12. David Lange famously quipped in 1983 ” I am not an economist ”

    If only that incredibly intelligent man had realised that by opening the door to neo liberal economics and the horrors and austerity that were to ensue in the years ahead would never be able to be closed again.

    By 1987 and his infamous ” cup of tea and a rest ” did he realise it was to late.

  13. We have too many people that hqve the same attitudes as people like Andrew Taite. Who don’t give two shits about the society they live in. apart from increasing their own power and wealth at the expense of others. That’s how society is. Chippy summarized it pretty well in his speech he was spot on.

  14. Two things: being near to the peculiar Scandies, ‘and’ being even more peculiar. No Finnish rich person has anywhere to go, they have to deal with their community.

  15. Much appreciate the late, great champions of social democracy like Bryan, and so many more. Trotter seemed to have turned his face to that flowering post 2017. Decided something else and couldn’t get out of it. We others hadn’t forgotten the high principles of the state in which we had grown up, that the people must come first. Not to say he doesn’t still believe that, just went down strange lanes for me.


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