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Finns think a good life is based on good health, justice and a well-managed everyday life

Sitra surveyed how and where Finns would like to live. How do they prioritise the various elements of a good life? Is justice more important than freedom – and what about self-fulfilment and avoiding stress? People’s experiences paint a picture of a good life that differs from statistical indicators.

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Sitra surveyed how and where Finns would like to live. How do they prioritise the various elements of a good life? Is justice more important than freedom – and what about self-fulfilment and avoiding stress? People’s experiences paint a picture of a good life that differs from statistical indicators.

Sitra’s Landmarks Barometer asked Finns about the elements of a good life: how do they prioritise these elements and to what extent do the different components materialise in people’s lives? Finns think that health is the most important element, followed by a well-managed everyday life. Next are justice, security and a meaningful job. In real life, however, the elements do not often materialise quite as expected. This discrepancy is known as a deficit in subjective well-being.

“Subjective well-being does not correspond to the results given by statistical indicators,” says Eeva Hellström, Director of Sitra’s Landmarks Programme. “For example, traditional indicators show lower levels of well-being for people who live in the countryside than for those in urban areas. However, if people are asked directly about their well-being, the results are considerably different.”

According to the Landmarks Barometer, Finns find urban areas and the countryside equally attractive. Migration from rural to urban areas, or vice versa, is not based on subjective well-being but on individual values and priorities. Towns and cities are attractive because of work and income, whereas visions of a better quality of everyday life attract people to the countryside. The more rural the area is in which people live, the higher the probability of a well-managed and stress-free everyday life.

People living in the countryside do not necessarily expect the same level of services as in towns and cities. Instead, they hope that their choice of living environment will help them achieve the goals they see as important in life. In particular, the opportunity to enjoy nature is more important for those living in the countryside than for those in towns and cities.

“The countryside is an excellent means of pursuing what is known as the politics of happiness. Rural areas have a surplus of happiness to share with outsiders, and urbanisation seems to have reached its peak, at least as a mindset,” says Consumption Sociologist Riitta Nieminen-Sundell, the author of Beautiful Landscape – But No Work, a recent publication by Sitra.

In her report, Nieminen-Sundell summarises the reports commissioned by Sitra’s Landmarks Programme in 2010 and 2011. She discusses the barometer results in the context of the public debate in Finland in recent years about downshifting, the meaning of work and the role of consumption.

An increasing number of Finns would like to live in the countryside because they feel it offers better opportunities for a good life. For many, however, this is not an option because of everyday realities. People seek to have more experience of the countryside in their lives by, for example, having a summer cottage as a second home. But the countryside is not only a place, it is also a landscape – a landscape of the mind. Four in ten people already feel that they are both city dwellers and country people. This dual identity is typical of townspeople, in particular. It is easier for those living in towns and cities to integrate the countryside into their identities than it is for country people to integrate urbanity into theirs.

Brand Your Province

Sitra’s Landmarks Programme will launch Brand Your Province, a national photography contest for professionals, students and enthusiasts. The purpose is to create new and original material that can be used to visualise the new type of demand for the countryside.

The three best entries will be awarded prizes of EUR 5,000, EUR 3,000 and EUR 1,500. These entries, as well as the winner of the popular vote, will be announced in a press conference in Helsinki on 8 September 2011. The entries that made the finals will be exhibited in the autumn of 2011.

Publication information

Beautiful Landscape – No Work (Maisema on, työ puuttuu) PDF, in Finnish »
Riitta Nieminen-Sundell Helsinki: Sitra, 2011 x s.
ISBN 978-951-563-775-8 (http://www.sitra.fi)

More information on the photography contest is available at www.brandaaprovinssi.fi, via info@brandaaprovinssi.fi or from Marjo Kivi, tel. +358 50 3388 765.

Further information

Sitra’s Landmarks Barometer (PDF, in Finnish) »

More than 1,600 Finns responded to the Landmarks Barometer in January and February 2011. Commissioned by Sitra, the survey was prepared by MTT Economic Research and carried out by Taloustutkimus. This was the second time Sitra surveyed Finns’ relationship with the countryside. The last section of the barometer, which deals with the elements of a good life, as well as the publication Beautiful Landscape – But No Work, will be published on Wednesday 18 May 2011

Sitra’s Landmarks Programme (2010–2014) identifies future needs and seeks new ways for the countryside to respond to challenges related to climate change and the new faster-paced, mobile way of life. During the spring of 2011, the programme will seek to answer the following questions, among others: How does the relationship with the countryside affect the experience of a good life? What kind of consumer demand will there be for the countryside? www.sitra.fi/maamerkit